Impact of Apps on Family Medicine

Smartphone use is now common among physicians; however, there's still a need for more information and ongoing assessments of how clinicians integrate these devices into practice.

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A recent article in the July issue of The Journal of Family Practice discusses the current and future impact of apps on family medicine practice.

The article, written by Helen Lippman, makes some poignant statements regarding the use of smartphones and apps by physicians and by implication family medicine physicians.

Here, we review some of the points made in this piece and highlight some of the important considerations for the use of apps in family medicine.

Use of smartphones and apps

As the article indicates, smartphone use is now common among physicians with 74% using them — according to one survey.

However, this is in line with use of smartphones by higher income people in the country. What’s more important, however, is that physicians actually do work with their smartphones. Essentially, this new communications tool has been incorporated into their work environment; for example, 43% of physicians use their smartphones to look up drug information.

However, there’s still a need for more information and ongoing assessments of how clinicians integrate these devices into practice, if at all. No survey targeting family physicians is discussed which is an indication of the need for data on the use of apps by this group of clinicians.

App prescribing

Although there is still the need for better data on whether physicians are prescribing apps, the article notes some interesting anecdotal findings. One example is Navy family physician Kelly Latimer, MD, who prescribes apps that can help patients keep track of health problems. One such app she prescribes for the frequency of headaches is the app iHeadache.

She also prescribes apps for anxiety like Relaxation Techniques or Breath2Relax and also suggests apps like Calorie Count and MyFitnessPal to help patients lose weight and get in shape. Why does she choose these apps and not others? The article does not make this point, but this is critical for understanding whether physicians should widely adopted apps or if this is simply one of the small points that distinguishes one clinician from another.

An underlying question — assuming apps are utilized by more family physicians — is whether patients need smartphones and their related data plans in order to get the best quality care? This may be an important concern moving forward.

Read more.

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