By Bob Werber
Physicians are fast adopting a new wave of “mobile health” (mHealth) technologies that aid them in some of the most important aspects of patient care. Mobile apps now give MDs quick, easy access to in-depth medical information and instructional tools on exam technique, CAT scan interpretation, medication choices and a wide range of other clinical matters. As a patient, it means that the doctor examining you has a strong suite of backup tools right in his or her hand to help make quality decisions on your care.
With over 400,000 physicians and 1.2 million allied health providers as users, Medscape is one of the best known mHealth tools. Beyond a massive library of information on drug prescription and safety, Medscape’s app gives doctors a “pill identifier” tool that helps with the tough job of ID’ing medications in the possession of patients who are intoxicated or unconscious, or with elderly patients confused about multiple medicines they are taking. A separate Medscape app allows doctors to earn continuing education credits on their mobile devices, rather than having to attend classes.
Professional groups have created some of the most highly specialized mobile apps for doctors. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers its members a suite of mobile tools that can aid both doctor and patient at every step from a first exam right through surgery and recovery.
AAOS now has separate apps for spine, shoulder, knee, elbow, hand and wrist and pediatrics that give doctors access to videos and discussions on physical exam methods for more accurate diagnosis. The doctor can get help in evaluating a patient’s shoulder, for example, for range of motion, impingement, rotator cuff dysfunction or other subtle problems.
An even more specialized “injections and aspirations” app from AAOS gives orthopedists direction on safe needle placement in over 20 common procedures involving joints. The mobile-friendly content includes detailed, high-definition videos. Like some other illustration-heavy tools, it’s an iPad-only app.
AAOS also provides an mHealth tool that helps patients get ready for orthopedic procedures like knee or hip replacements, with illustrations, medical animations and instructional videos.
With interns, residents, nurses and medical students being called on to perform an ever-widening array of procedures, it’s become important to have an mHealth tool that makes sure their skills are up-to-date. Enter Proceducate, which helps these “mid-level” clinicians handle a range of minor procedures correctly.
Developed by two Canadian physicians, Proceducate can help an intern who was taught how to insert in IUD in medical school but has never done it in practice review the procedure and execute it with confidence. A medical student who knows how to do a skin biopsy but isn’t confident about suturing technique, or who has only limited experience in doing a deep injection into the shoulder or knee, can watch instructional videos on the subtleties of these procedures.
Proceducate, which has been developed as part of an ongoing study by the University of Toronto, has gradually grown to cover techniques in surgical knot tying, toenail removal and several gynecological procedures. Available for iPhone and iPad, it’s free. A similar tool called ClinicalKey (also free) has recently been release by major medical publisher Elsevier.