Docs using mobile apps at the point of care

The introduction of a medical check list for the iPhone could be a benefit to providers as mobile technology is quickly being integrated into the care process.

Peter Waegemann, vice president of development for the mHealth Initiative, Inc. says so many health professionals have started using smartphones to help administer better care that some say they "don’t know how colleagues manage without them."

Official statistics aren't published, "but anecdotal reports confirm that many doctors are using the iPhone at the point of care,” says Waegemann. "There are several hospitals where all doctors are using the iPhone."

The iPhone currently has more than 1,000 medical apps aimed at both patients and physicians to better manage health and care. Applications like Safe OR, designed by QxMD, is a mobile checklist designed to increase survival rates during surgery. The application provides a series of checklists to be completed before beginning a surgical procedure. The checklists have involve administering anaesthesia and making surgical incisions into a patient. When a checklist isn’t complete, the app provides an alert to the user indicating which steps were skipped.

“iPhone-based decision support with checklists are a great benefit," says Waegemann. "My vision for mHealth is that a large part of the scientific body of medicine that a doctor learns and memorizes in medical school will be transferred into decision-supporting apps a doctor holds on a mobile device when seeing the patient and that can be easily and routinely updated as advances are made."

Waegemann says this process of using mobile apps to improve care is in its early stages, and has some growing to do. Once the use of this technology is more widespread, Waegemann expects the quality of care will improve.

“Current iPhone apps of this kind are the very beginning of a long process – perhaps 10 to 15 years – during which the mDevice will become the main tool a doctor uses in attending to patients,” says Waegemann. “The benefits are better quality of care, greater efficiency, and lower healthcare costs.”

There are other contenders in mhealth as well. Apple’s new iPad, as well as the Motorola Droid and the Blackberry, have the potential to provide the same application offerings as the iPhone.

"The iPhone is just one of a number of new smart phones,” says Waegemann. “The <a href="/directory/ipad" target="_blank" class="directory-item-link">iPad will open up a new dimension for doctors as it will become the working tool at the point of care. But other phones could catch up or become even more successful in healthcare. One must see mobile applications as part of mHealth which is focusing on new communication in healthcare and healthcare restructuring (including the financial system) and is enabled by mobile systems. I am convinced that our healthcare system will have major communication changes that will affect everyone. These changes will evolve over time; they are disruptive and will change so much."