When the Blackberry first merged communication and computing features in 2002, it was hard to imagine how handheld mobile devices would change healthcare and other industries. But today, when over 90 percent of physicians’s use smartphones at work, it’s hard to imagine anything else. This article describes the general ways healthcare professionals use smartphones in 2019.

Smartphones and tablets are useful for the basic reason that any mobile computer is useful – they give us easy access to information and processing capabilities at the point of care. But the 325,000 mHealth apps on the market have also opened up mobile devices for a range of other clinical uses.

Following an article published in Pharmacy and Therapeutics, we break down the ways healthcare professionals use smartphones into 7 categories. We discuss each of these in turn, along with some of the most popular apps that make smartphones so useful to clinicians.

Healthcare professionals use smartphones to…

1) Manage information

A big part of any healthcare professional’s job is information management, whether that means writing notes, taking photos, or saving and sharing documents.

Read is a popular app that lets you review, organize and share medical literature. Apps like Evernote are not specifically designed for healthcare, but are a powerful way to organize digital information not immediately bound for an Electronic Health Record (EHR). Could-based storage and sharing services are becoming more important every day. Even services like Box have become HIPAA-compliant

2) Manage time

Whether you’re a physician, technician, or resident, your day is full of meetings and appointments. While many healthcare professionals stick to general platforms like iCal or Google Calendar, apps like Mobius Clinic are designed for efficient time and task management specifically in a clinical setting.

By coordinating appointment scheduling, practice-wide to-do lists, prescriptions, and follow-up visits, these apps help you make sure you’re always where you need to be.

3) Access health records

Perhaps the biggest benefit of smartphones in health care is the ability to retrieve information or add data to EHRs from the point of care. While major EHR vendors produce their own apps, third party apps that interact with EHRs make a range of specialized clinical functions possible. These functions include automatic vitals collection, streamlined image capture, and much more.

4) Communicate

Healthcare systems are often dispersed, requiring professionals to move between clinics, inpatient wards, outpatient services, emergency departments, intensive care units and labs. A range of HIPAA-compliant apps have have emerged to help healthcare professionals on the move communicate and coordinate with their networks using text, email, voice and video calling.

The most popular example is Doximity, a free medical professional networking service that claims over 60 percent of clinicians as members.

5) Reference

Mobile devices have revolutionized quick access to drug reference guides, medical textbooks, journals and news. A recent survey shows that most medical school healthcare professionals and students access medical journal websites and medical news online.

While publications like the New England Journal of Medicine have created their owns apps for mobile devices, apps like Read facilitate access to multiple medical journals. Epocrates and Medscape are some of the most popular medical apps for drug reference and other clinical answers. These and many other apps support evidence-based clinical decision-making at the point of care.

6) Monitor patients

Healthcare professionals have started using mobile devices to monitor the health and location of patients with chronic disease and conditions. This use of smartphones is often paired with mHealth wearables that use censors to capture data.

For example, patients and physicians now have access to smart inhalers that sync with a mobile app to remind patients and monitor adherence. Other specialized devices assist with patient rehab, clinical data collection, or heart rate monitoring.

7) Educate and train

Mobile devices play an increasingly important role in medical education. MedCalc, Lexicomp, and Prognosis are just a few of the apps that medical students use to study, take notes, reference drug information, learn about conditions and perform calculations.