Worth the Switch? The Advantages/Disadvantages of Apps in Your Medical Practice


 Please enjoy this guest post by blogger, nurse and writer, Kathryn Norcutt.

Using a smartphone in any work place can be quite the conundrum. On one hand, you have access to databases and handbooks all at the touch of a button.  While on the other, you have the social stigma of using a cell phone in the work place (are they working? Is he/she texting? I hope they’re not playing a game…) It is impossible to ignore the huge pool of information that exists today on the app store.  With over 700,000 apps and growing (11,929 strictly devoted to the medical field) there is literally an app for almost any situation.  So as an employee in the healthcare field, is it in your best interest to add a few of these apps to your treatment and diagnosing arsenal.  Let’s break down the pros and cons of such a switch.

Speed and Ease

Pro: The biggest advantage that any app advocate will cite in their defense will be the speed at which you are able to call up information.  Being in the room with a patient and confronted with a question or topic that might be a little fuzzy to you can be remedied with various apps that are on the app store at the moment.  Many of these apps come at significantly reduced costs than their text-book alternatives, some even being able to be synced across multiple devices.

Con: Using a smartphone or a tablet in your practice can be met with a certain level of criticism as well.  There is a huge generational gap to consider when using devices like this during a consultation with a patient.  For those of an older generation, you could potentially be viewed as being ill-equipped to deal with their problems or quite basically, uniformed.  Scorn from fellow employees might also be a factor as you might be perceived as texting, on Facebook or even playing a game.

Tip: Suggest a meeting with your staff to find out where everyone’s comfort level rests in regards     to using these devices in the workplace.  Come to a consensus of which apps will benefit the        practice the most and to what extent your smartphones should be used to.

Patient Records

Pro: Within the last year there has been quite the explosion of mobile patient record software.  Apps like Dr. Chrono rely heavily on mobile integration.  With the ability to have your patient fill out or create their own patient profile, you eliminate the need for paper copies as their information is uploaded to your network in real time.  Often times, these apps have features that go well beyond the scope of the check-in room.  As a doctor, you are then free to equip yourself with a tablet and view patient history, photos, x-rays and notes all with the touch of a button

Con: The largest critique for this software falls into the realms of patient confidentiality and privacy.  Storing medical records and patient information “in the cloud” can be met with a lot of skepticism.  While paper forms are much easier to be placed under lock and key, digital data will always run the risk of falling into the hands of people who it is not intended for,

Tip: If deciding to incorporate a mobile records app into your practice is on your agenda make          sure you have done the proper homework ahead of time.  Know where the software you are          interested in stands in terms of its safety and how often it is updated to adhere to the ever   changing online storage laws.

Honing Your Skills and Staying Up to Date

Pro: Apps for tablets and smartphones can also work as a great point of training and staying up to date on procedures and best practices.  There are a number of great apps on the store to help you keep all the information you learned in school up to date and fresh.  These kinds of apps present you with different emergency situations and force you to react accordingly in order to save the virtual patients life.  After scenarios are completed, they will generally give you a breakdown of what you did correctly and what you did, well, not so great.  These types of programs have plenty of well-educated minds behind them with many of the developers holding PhD’s in a field related to the category of the app.

Con: Naturally, nothing is like the real thing.  Just like any simulated process from pilots to nuclear physicist, actually getting hands on experience is going to be light years ahead of computer-generated training.  Relying on these programs as your only “refresher” is dangerous territory for anyone and is clearly, not recommended.

Tip: Before investing in one piece of software over another poke around and see just which creative minds are behind its creation.  Is the company behind the app credible?  Are the rest of their apps highly reviewed or do they appear spammy and out for a cheap buck?  Read other reviews and then make your decision if it will be right for you.

The debate over  smartphones or tablets isn’t going anywhere.  Every month hundreds of new apps flood the app store boasting to be the latest and greatest at what they do.  Only time will tell just how much integration we can expect to see.  What about you?  Do you have any experience with app usage in your small practice? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Kathryn Norcutt has been an active member of the health care community for over 20 years.  During her time as a nurse, she has helped people from all walks of life and ages.  Now, Kathryn leads a much less hectic life and devotes most of her free time to writing for RNnetwork.