The Use of Smartphones in Healthcare: A Quick Survey of the Clinical Literature


A roundup of recent articles in the clinical literature that look at the use of smartphones and apps in a variety of healthcare specialties and settings.

What does the literature have to say about the use of iPhones, BlackBerries, Androids, and other smartphones in clinical practice? We offer a quick survey of recent articles that look at the use of smartphones and apps in a variety of healthcare specialties and settings.

Mobile Phones to Improve the Practice of Neurology

Neil Busis, MD, FAAN, Practice and Technology Editor for the American Academy of Neurology, writing in the May 2010 issue of Neurology Clinics, examines the “big picture” of smartphone and mobile computing use in healthcare (specifically in neurology), offers an overview of the major smartphone platforms and the “smartphone ecosystem,” reviews the capabilities of a variety of smartphone applications for physicians and patients, surveys the literature surrounding the use of smartphones and PDAs in clinical practice, looks at the challenges and shortcomings of using these devices, and answers the question “Where do we go from here?”

Click here to listen to a two-part podcast with Dr. Busis from the 2009 AAN annual meeting. The interview covers the current health IT climate, AAN efforts to educate members about the use of health IT in practice, the effects of the HITECH Act, the importance of interoperability, future drivers of health IT adoption, and more.

A Wearable Smartphone-based Platform for Real-time Cardiovascular Disease Detection via Electrocardiogram Processing

The authors of this article, which appeared in the May 2010 issue of IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine (a publication of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society), describe and comment on the results of a study designed to “to unite the portability of Holter monitors and the real-time processing capability of state-of-the-art resting ECG machines to provide an assistive diagnosis solution using smartphones.” Specifically, they “developed two smartphone-based wearable CVD-detection platforms capable of performing real-time ECG acquisition and display, feature extraction, and beat classification.”

Infectious Diseases Resources for the iPhone

In the May 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, Richard Oehler and colleagues provide “an overview of some of the diverse infectious diseases‐oriented resources available to the iPhone/iPod touch user.”

Radiation Passport: An iPhone and iPod Touch Application to Track Radiation Dose and Estimate Associated Cancer Risks

The April 2010 issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology includes an article by Mark Otto Baerlocher, MD, and colleagues that describes “Radiation Passport,” an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that “provides radiation dose estimates and associated cancer risks (non fatal and fatal) and serves as a method by which to track an individual's cumulative exposure.”

Is Android or iPhone the Platform for Innovation in Imaging Informatics?

This article, from the February 2010 Journal of Digital Imaging, looks at whether the iPhone or the Android, two designs that represent “two entirely different architectures and business models,” offer the most potential for innovation in healthcare imaging informatics. Author George Shih, MD, thinks that “the unabashed enthusiasm of both its users and developers will make iPhone the best platform for mobile radiology applications,” offering as examples the MIMvista DICOM viewer iPhone app, the Osirix Mobile DICOM viewer app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and the open-source iOviyam iPhone DICOM viewer. Co-author Paras Lakhani, MD, disagrees, saying that the Android’s resource system, “used for defining animations and managing images, layouts, audio, and video,” is “very flexible, stylish, and straightforward to use, which is important for developing applications that heavily rely on images, as is the case with radiology.” Because of this, Lakhani predicts that “the Android will eventually exceed in the iPhone in sales and will become the major player in the smartphone industry, as it is driven by proven and innovative company in Google, is open source in regard to licensing and accessibility to third-party developers and supported by the large majority of mobile handset manufactures.”

Practicing Medicine in a Technological Age: Using Smartphones in Clinical Practice

In this 2008 article from Clinical Infectious Diseases, Steven Burdette, MD, and colleagues review the capabilities, benefits, and drawbacks of six major smartphone operating systems (this was pre-Android). They encourage physicians to consider the use of smartphones in clinical practice because the devices “allow physicians to become more efficient in their daily activities while providing clinically updated care to their patients.” The authors recommend that physicians “consider many facets of a device before deciding which one to purchase… including the following: screen size, availability of medical software and likelihood of using software, monthly financial expenditures for cellular and internet access, devices that colleagues are using, and presence of a keyboard to permit faster data entry.”

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