Doctors embrace apps in clinical practice

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Nine out of ten doctors say their smartphone helps them in their clinical practice, according to a UK survey published by BMJ Innovations.

The equivalent figure amongst nurses was over 50%. The vast majority of doctors and physicians owned a smartphone device, 99% and 95%, respectively. The researchers also found that the majority of those who owned medical apps used these as part of their clinical practice, including drug formularies, medical calculators and disease diagnosis and management tools.

The researchers, from Imperial College, surveyed over 2,100 doctors and over 4,000 nurses across five hospital sites at a London-based hospital trust.

Most doctors had transmitted clinical information about their patients via SMS, and a substantial proportion had also used app-based messaging and picture messaging for this purpose. However, the group noted that while fully secure messaging services exist in the USA, these are not available in the UK at the present time. They cautioned: ‘It is imperative that NHS organisations educate staff on the dangers of sending patient information using unsecure smartphone modalities.’

The group wrote: ‘The findings from this study demonstrate that smartphones have become increasingly popular among healthcare professionals who perceive them to be an excellent tool in supporting healthcare delivery.

‘The results provide strong evidence that healthcare organisations need to develop policies to support the safe and secure use of digital technologies in the workplace and that strategies are needed to secure further innovations in digital health.’

Dr Dominic King, one of the study authors, told Doctors.net: ‘Both doctors and nurses felt very positive about the routine use of smartphones in clinical practice.’

He added: ‘The health care system should be working towards providing and supporting bespoke digital health platforms that support messaging, collaboration and access to clinical support and guidelines.’