Smart phones not smart enough for health?

Despite their near-universal adoption by consumers in recent years, smartphones and other mobile computing devices have made little impact on the delivery of healthcare with most healthcare organisations firmly wedded to applications deployed on traditional desktop operating systems.

In this week's poll, Pulse+IT asked the following question:

If you treat patients, do you use a smartphone or tablet for any clinical purpose?

This week's poll was directed at practicing healthcare providers, which constitute around 40 per cent of Pulse+IT's eNewsletter readership.

The results of the poll suggest that more healthcare providers are using their devices to run medical apps (60 per cent) than are using their devices for taking clinical photos (36 per cent), with Pulse+IT editions directed at medical practice (Tuesday and Thursday) showing a larger disparity in these results.

This binary option was of course an over simplification of what may be happening in reality as it's likely that healthcare providers that are using medical apps on their smart phones may also be taking clinical photos. With this in mind, for this poll Pulse+IT trialed some more comprehensive survey technology that allowed multiple selections to be made and free text responses to be collected after a reader had voted in an eNewsletter.

The questions posed in the follow up mini survey were:
  1. If you used medical apps, which one do you use?
  2. If you take clinical photos with your smartphone / tablet, how are these photos stored?
Perhaps having become familiar with the single-click polling method we have used to date, the web based survey didn't yield many free text responses with MIMS the only medical app to feature multiple times in the results.

People who responded to the second question relating to clinical photography appeared to have a good handle on the potential privacy and confidentiality risks associated with the practice, with all respondents indicating they are using secure methods to store their photos. Interestingly one clinican said they used their patients' phones to store (and presumably take) clinical photos, which I thought was a novel way of both engaging the patient in their treatment and simplifying the medical record keeping process.

Given the theme of this week's poll, it was interesting to review the information the survey technology collected about the type of device the reader was using at the time they voted in the poll. It would appear that the adoption of mobile computing technology has a long way to go in healthcare, with just five per cent of respondents voting using a smart phone, two percent voting using a tablet device, and the vast majority (93 per cent) using a desktop or laptop.

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