Pulse+IT Magazine - May 2013

Page 38




HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD HEALTHCARE APP There are tens of thousands of healthcare apps out there and they seem to proliferate by the day. The majority are aimed at consumers, but for healthcare professionals, medical apps can be a wonderful resource. How, though, do you sift through the less than useful apps to find those gems?

DR TESSA DAVIS BSc(Hons), MBChB, MA, MRCPCH tessardavis@me.com

With thousands of medical apps to choose from for your mobile, it’s very easy to get lost browsing the app stores. But really, we have to choose, because apps offer an easy way to improve healthcare and health education. If we don’t use them, we’re missing out on an exciting new movement in medicine. So what makes a good healthcare app? I have asked myself this many times as I developed my own apps and reviewed many more. Deciding whether an app is good or not is nearly impossible to do before you buy it, but reading app reviews and word of mouth from colleagues can be a pretty reliable way of helping you pick. Generally when I look at an app or develop one, I consider a few main areas that make apps great: content, design, price, and added value.

About the author Tessa Davis is a paediatric emergency trainee at Sydney Children's Hospital. She has an interest in health innovation, patient safety and IT. Tessa created www.guidelinesforme.com, www.learnmed.com.au, and www.iclinicalapps.com

To state the obvious, without the content being useful to you, the app is worthless. The quality of the content is important, so looking at who the authors/developers are will give you an idea of their clinical expertise. Although the concept of healthcare apps receiving a special seal of approval is starting to emerge, most apps don’t have this. As with any time you browse for healthcare information on the internet, you need to consider the reliability of the source.

It’s also important to have a think about whether you will actually use the app – the content might seem fun, but will that just be as a one-off and then languish in a folder on your mobile for all eternity? If you’re paying for an app you should find it useful regularly. And do you have the content in another app already? As my list of medical apps on my phone has grown, I have started to realise that many apps are overlapping in content. I have at least six apps that calculate fluid requirements in children. In actual fact, there’s only one that I use regularly, so rationalising your apps is a good idea to avoid phone overload.

The difference with design Design is my biggest bugbear with apps – just because an app only costs 99c doesn’t mean we should be grateful for what we receive. It really doesn’t take much effort from developers to get someone to design some nice app graphics, and it makes a world of a difference to the user. You should feel happy using the app and not like you are trudging through an uninspiring textbook. It should be easy to find your way around the app – if it needs you to watch a 20-minute explanatory video before you start using it, then that’s

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