The Apps Clinicians Are Using, and How They're Streamlining Care Delivery

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The majority (51 percent) of physicians who own smartphones now use clinical apps in their daily work, according to a recent survey conducted by American EHR Partners.

The growing demand has fueled a dramatic increase in the number of clinical apps on the market. According to Float Mobile Learning, it’s the third fastest-growing app category for both Apple’s iTunes Store and Google Play. Thousands are currently available for free on the iOS and Android platform, but the most popular are fairly consistent between both app stores:

Top-downloaded free clinical apps in the iTunes Store (iOS/ Apple), as of Aug. 25

  1. Epocrates (Epocrates)
  2. Micromedex Drug Information (Truven Health Analytics) 
  3. Medscape (WedMD)
  4. Taber’s Medical Dictionary for Mobile + Web (Unbound Medicine)
  5. Skyscape Medical Resources (Skyscape)

Top-downloaded free clinical apps in Google Play (Android), as of Aug. 25

  1. Epocrates (Epocrates)
  2. Medscape (WebMD)
  3. Micromedex Drug Information (Truven Health Analytics)
  4. Skyscape Medical Resources (Skyscape)
  5. UptoDate for Android (Wolters Kluwer Health)

Two of the most popular free apps aim to provide comprehensive clinical decision support information for clinicians. Epocrates is currently used by more than 1 million healthcare professionals nationwide, Medscape by 3 million, according to the respective companies’ data. 

“The vast majority of physicians graduating from medical school now are tech-savvy and smartphone users,” says Ben Greenberg, senior director of product management and user experience at WebMD, the company behind Medscape. “We have an enormous audience.” 

The apps were both developed to take advantage of the mobile format to provide clinical information to providers at the point of care. “We wanted to offer the tools physicians need when they’re making important clinical decisions and make it portable,” says Mr. Greenberg. He describes the app as a “physician’s Swiss army knife” — pocket-sized and with a variety of useful tools. 

The most popular tools on both apps are the drug information sections. “Clinicians have identified the popular drug-drug-interaction checker as the number one feature that changes their decisions at the point of care,” says Anne Meneghetti, MD, director of clinical communications at Epocrates. She says a user survey conducted in 2012 revealed 40 percent of physicians avoided two or more adverse drug events per week.  

“There’s very, very heavy usage on the drug reference section,” says Medscape’s Mr. Greenberg. “A lot of both drug lookups and interaction checker usage.” 

Mr. Greenberg believes the heavy usage of the Medscape app signals a future in which clinical apps will become integrated in a physician’s day-to-day work. “Clinical reference at the point of care can greatly assist in physician decision-making,” he says. 

Clinical apps, in providing on-demand, instant clinical support, have already begun streamlining physicians’ workflows. Dr. Meneghetti says nearly half of the app’s physician users save 20 minutes per day by using Epocrates. She believes in the coming years, multiple reference sources will be integrated and seamlessly accessible to better suit physician workflow. “There are times when clinicians need a deep information dive that would warrant a larger screen and more time; however, more than ever clinicians need quick access to answers,” she says, which mobile technology can provide. 

More Articles on mHealth:

HHS Promotes Digital Strategy With Consumer-Facing Apps
Mayo Clinic's App and the Future of Patient Engagement
Figure 1 and Continuing Medical Education Through Mobile Apps

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