The rapid integration of mobile devices has impacted many fields, including healthcare. The use of mobile devices by healthcare professionals (HCPs) has transformed many aspects of clinical practice. Though mobile apps are new to healthcare practices, they will be the defining factors for patient engagement in the near future.
According to ABI Research, the market for mobile health apps is expected to quadruple to $400 million by 2016 as global sales of smartphones are expected to hit 1.5 billion units by 2016. The numbers represent the advent of yet another revolution in the healthcare industry. Medical applications have evolved as useful tools in the practice of medicine at the point of care, in addition to their use in mobile clinical communication. They allow HCPs to make rapid decisions, enhance the quality of data management and accessibility and increase practice efficiency and knowledge.
Healthcare professionals can use medical devices and apps for many purposes, most of which can be grouped under five broad categories:
- Health record maintenance and access
- Communications and consulting
- Reference and information gathering
- Medical education
HCPs require access to many types of resources in a clinical setting, including:
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- Communication capabilities – voice calling, video conferencing, text and e-mail
- Hospital information systems (HISs) – electronic health records (EHRs), electronic medical records (EMRs), clinical decision support systems (CDSSs), picture archiving and communication systems (PACSs) and laboratory information systems (LISs)
- Informational resources – textbooks, guidelines, medical literature, drug references
- Clinical software applications – disease diagnosis aids, medical calculators
Any healthcare operations facility, a hospital or practice, is often highly dispersed with multiple channels such as clinics, inpatient wards, outpatient services, emergency departments, operating theaters, intensive care units and labs. Consequently, HCPs not only need to be mobile themselves, they also need to be able to communicate and collaborate with people in different locations. Mobile devices satisfy this need by offering multiple means of communication, including: voice and video calling; and text, e-mail, multimedia messaging and video conferencing. Clinical communication apps are available for mobile devices that are specifically designed to simplify communication among clinicians. Furthermore, mobile devices have been proven to improve contact between HCPs and their colleagues.
Future trends for mobile apps in healthcare
One major factor driving the widespread adoption of mobile devices by HCPs has been the need for better communication and information resources at the point of care. The most significant benefit is easy fingertip access to point-of-care tools, which has been shown to support better clinical decision-making and improved patient outcome. Proper use and integration of these increasingly sophisticated tools into medical practice will definitely deliver better health outcomes.