It is undeniable that the global use of smartphones has increased in the twenty-first century. Smartphone technology is being used in a variety of fields and industries to improve efficiency and productivity. Many healthcare institutions and organizations have followed suit, adopting smartphone technology as well. Hospitals are incorporating this technology into their day-to-day operations, including disease management, record tracking, medication dispensing, and appointment scheduling. Other healthcare organizations have created applications (Apps) to encourage patient engagement, information gathering, online consultations, and medical education (National Council of Teachers of English 1). Perhaps we can say that mobile devices have improved decision-making and patient outcomes by increasing access to healthcare solutions. Despite all these benefits, some healthcare providers are still reluctant to adopt the smartphone technology because they lack adequate knowledge about the smartphones, i.e. smart literacy. Additionally, there is the need for better validation practices and standards concerning the smartphone technology, which will help to ensure that mobile apps are used properly and integrated well into medical practice.
This paper or rather study will offer an overview of the smartphone technology in improving health provision. This paper will argue that smartphone literacy has helped to improve medical practices and patient outcomes in the health sector. The paper will also look at various medical practices that have been successfully integrated into the smartphone technology to improve efficiency, productivity and clinical outcomes. This study will also highlight some of the challenges and barriers to the smartphone technology that need to be addressed to reach minority populations that are yet to adopt this technology.
1. Smartphone literacy has helped to improve medical practices and patient outcomes in the health sector.
2. Various medical practices that have been successfully integrated into the smartphone technology to improve efficiency, productivity and clinical outcomes.
3. Challenges and barriers to the smartphone technology
Despite the widespread smartphone technology and healthcare apps, there is little information about this technology in implementing health promotion practices. Smartphones are devices that can send electronic mails, text messages, voice and video recordings, and access to wireless internet. We must emphasize that health professionals should understand how these smartphones and health apps can be used in health interventions. Health apps are software items that can be downloaded from app stores to run on the mobile devices. Smartphones are easy to carry and are threatening to outnumber computers by nearly 50%. Today, we have over 17, 000 medical/ health apps used by healthcare professionals to seek medical reference, general diagnosis, monitor patients and follow up with laboratory results (Kratzke and Cox). These apps can be categorized into:
Disease Management Apps
These type of apps are objected to improving efficiency. Often, physicians have found it difficult to monitor their patients outside the hospitals or offices, while patients forget quickly about the physician’s recommendations on how to improve their health at home. These disease management apps allow patients and doctors to keep track of the medications and practices in managing chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart failure and cancer. Disease Management Apps also improve engagement between patient patients and doctors. This way, it becomes easier to adhere to prescribed care plans. As a healthcare practitioner, you must be in constant communication with your colleagues and patients. In any organization, poor or lack of communication leads to frustration and low productivity. You need to know who how you can reach other providers in case of referrals. These apps provide a solution for engaging in a constant communication (Smith 29).
These apps allow storage of electronic health records. Even when out of office, physicians can simply retrieve data and monitor how their patients are doing. Once patients can track their symptoms and progress, their clinical outcomes subsequently improve. The apps also offer scheduling features that remind patients when they need to take their medication or go for checkups. Some apps also provide tips for healthy dieting, exercising education and successful clinical studies on particular conditions. Some conditions such as diabetes and congestive heart failure require the patient to adhere fully to the prescription plan and take drugs as recommended by physicians. These drugs are taken for a long time to regulate the condition and prevent worsening. Often, most patients become bored with the drugs hence fail to comply as required while others might forget. Through the smartphone technology, healthcare providers are able to send text messages or reminders to patients on drug consumption hence boosting compliance. Studies reveal that the clinical outcome among diabetic patients who received reminders improved significantly. The motivation for adherence to medicine and the prescribed plan can only be achieved through reminders offered by the smartphone technology. Today, campaigns towards HIV Prevention have recorded significant achievements because community health workers are sending messages, reminders and calling patients for follow-ups (Kratzke and Cox 76).
Electronic Health Records
With the era of computers, many hospitals had converted to using electronic formats such us Microsoft excel to store patient information. In the 21st century, these electronic records have been integrated with health apps on smartphones. The apps instantly access medical records and allow physicians to access the medical history of the patient, even when it is the patient’s the first time. Therefore, the healthcare provider does not need to contact the patient’s former clinic to request for medical records, which improves efficiency and saves time especially during emergencies (Kratzke and Cox 79). Electronic Health Records apps can also be used for administrations purposes including managing schedules and checking in. Health Apps such as Teamviewer and PatientKeeper allow the physician to access lab results, x-ray findings and patient’s medical history.
Clinical reference Apps
These kinds of applications offer healthcare service providers with a wide range of health information. Physicians and other providers can access various clinical information which they use to improve patient care. Some apps enable users to understand various drug interactions and how to handle this issue. Patients also use this app to learn about disease symptoms, and when to seek medical attention from the doctor. Apps such as PubMed, Medscape and PubSearch offer healthcare providers with medical literature on various conditions. Some apps offer information on recommended drugs plus those that have been approved by FDA (Smith 29).
Recently, smartphones have begun to take a social angle by connecting patients through social media. Evidently, online communities serve as a perfect platform for people to share their symptoms, treatments and encourage each other. Physicians have also begun to connect on various social media platforms and share new indications and treatments that have worked perfectly for them. Information and time management are key in any clinical practice. The smartphone technology offers file sharing services and cloud-based storage which can be easily accessed from the comfort of your home on the mobile device. Health providers can share and update files instead of using hard copy files. Patients can also connect GoodReader to cloud service, which allows them to download PDF files into the read-app. Apps such as ZocDoc allow patients to track their appointments through their mobile devices (Kratzke and Cox 80).
Challenges and barriers to the smartphone technology
Although health apps continue to increase, the health industry faces several challenges. One major concern is that some patients cannot afford the smartphones. Other patients have found it difficult to operate these devices and navigate through the various health apps. Therefore, it will be difficult for such patients to benefit from this technology. Physicians have raised concerns about the amount of time they spend on these apps engaging patients. Thus, they are calling for adequate reimbursement to compensate for their time. Patients will be forced to pay an extra fee to cater for this expenses (Kratzke and Cox 82).
While health apps have been widely embraced for their benefits towards improving the quality of health, little information is available regarding the quality of the content on these apps. It is unfortunate that some apps are yet to be approved by the health sector because the information they contain has not be ascertained whether it is valid. It is difficult to distinguish between those that have been approved and those that have not been approved; therefore, patients risk accessing information that is not reliable. For instance, only 14 percent of pain management apps had involved health professionals in publishing their content. There is a need for more efficacy researches on smartphone technology in improving healthcare (Kratzke and Cox 82).
The smartphone technology is already a valuable tool in the health industry. As their features continue to expand, we expect that these devices will be widely incorporated into all aspects of clinical practice. Since some healthcare providers and patients are still reluctant to shift to this new platform, there is a need for further education and training on the benefits of embracing this technology. It is evident that these health apps have amazing benefits, but it is important for users, i.e. patients and healthcare providers, to understand the potential risks associated with using these devices. There must be rigorous evaluation of the health apps to develop best practice for health applications, which assures quality and safety (Kratzke and Cox 81).
Kratzke, Cynthia and Carolyn Cox. “Smartphone Technology and Apps: Rapidly Changing Health Promotion.” International Journal of Health Education (2012): 72-82.
National Council of Teachers of English. “The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies.” 2013. NCTE. 25 November 2017.
Smith, Candace. Nurse Communication Technology. Florida: American Nurse Today, 2014.