In a recent poll in Psychiatric News Update, psychiatrists indicated that several applications or “apps” for smartphones and tablet computers have become essential to their daily practice. In particular, drug reference guide apps such as Epocrates and Lexi-Drugs are considered must-haves by many physicians, as they provide quick and easy access to dosage information, side-effect profiles, and drug interactions.
But the ubiquity of mobile technology has found many physicians overwhelmed by the constant influx of new electronic products and services, and clearly not all apps are created equal. So how does one differentiate between the must-haves and the need-nots?
This article highlights some of the many capabilities of apps on today’s smartphone and tablet devices. In future editions of Psychiatric News, the author and other “tech geeks” will provide reviews to help the reader decide which apps make the grade.
An application—or app—is basically the equivalent of a software program installed on a smartphone or tablet device. Apps are easy to search for and install from places such as the App Store for Apple’s iPhone and iPad or the Android Market for devices built on the Google Android operating system.
In addition to the popular drug-database applications, there are a multitude of apps designed to assist physicians in their day-to-day activities. There are apps for electronically sending prescriptions to pharmacies (Allscripts ePrescribe, Rx-Writer) or accessing patients’ electronic health records (drchrono, Epocrates EHR).
Apps such as Care360 enable physicians to view lab reports, while PubMed on Tap provides mobile access to up-to-date research, and ReachMD provides continuing medical education.
On the business side of things, the Square device and app can be used to process payments with credit-card swipes. Through integration with the Microsoft Office suite or Apple’s iWork, the Pages or Quickoffice apps enable mobile devices to edit or view spreadsheets, presentations, and other types of electronic materials.
The ubiquitous Adobe PDF (portable document format) can also be viewed and even annotated on a mobile device with apps such as GoodReader or neu. Annotate. Apps such as Dropbox can access documents in a cloud storage account or generate an e-mail link to a file for download by the recipient.
Physicians can also advise their patients on the use of apps to aid in personal health care. There are apps that can be used to track dietary intake (CalorieKing, Lose It!), log miles walked or ran (MyFitnessPal), or connect with Bluetooth-enabled devices to capture calories burned during exercise (Nike+, Fitbit). Patients can even create a personal health record on their smartphone or tablet with My Health Records or Medical Records to keep track of their medications, conditions, and drug allergies.
No matter what your need is, there’s sure to be an app out there to meet it. So stay tuned for future assessments of the tools that can help make your practice perfect.
John Luo, M.D., is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry and associate director of psychiatry residency training at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and a past president of the American Association for Technology in Psychiatry.