Some hospitals develop their own iPad apps for patients and staff, but even for those that don’t, there are a growing number of apps aimed at helping healthcare professionals better care for and communicate with their patients.
With iPad adoption among physicians so high — a survey this year estimated it at 27 percent — the importance of the tablet device to the healthcare industry should only grow in the next few years.
We’ve chosen to highlight five ways hospitals are using the iPad — to heal, to inform, to make money, to impart their history and to educate — and offered examples of each.
Brockton Hospital in Massachusetts is using an iPad app called Survey on the Spot to gather patient feedback and educate staff on how the hospital can improve its operations. When patients are ready to leave the hospital, they’re handed iPads to fill out a short survey to give the hospital feedback on their experiences. The ability to obtain real-time feedback has allowed supervisors to provide quick coaching and guidance to junior staffers, in many cases before the staffers’ shifts are complete, according to a spokeswoman. Software alerts can be set up to route messages to management whenever a patient has rated any aspect of service as poor.
drawMD has released a series of specialty apps for clinicians that are designed to help patients better understand their conditions. The apps allow users to draw or type text onto detailed medical images, which helps doctors explain complex medical issues to patients. Doctors can access images stored within the app or add their own, then email those images to patients. The company’s urology app is sponsored by Boston Scientific.
Among hospitals that develop their own iPad apps, the most common focus seems to be on apps that essentially act as reference guides for patients that share key information specific to the hospital. An app from California’s Twin Cities Community Hospital does just that. The app features information on emergency room wait times, directions to the hospitals, a physician finder, key contact numbers and a health library. Patients can also store personal information in the app, such as the prescription drugs they’re using, their insurance numbers and a family medical history.
To make money
Generally lauded as the nation’s leading hospital in social media, Mayo Clinic in Minnesota may become the hospital king of apps. The company was among the first to jump on the mobile-apps bandwagon, releasing an iPhone meditation app in 2009 that sells for $2.99. Mayo has since launched more iPhone and iPad apps, including one for dermatitis patients, a blood-transfusion education app for doctors and a free symptom checker reference guide that is no longer available. Mayo has even partnered with an app development company to create a startup, mRemedy, dedicated to creating apps based on Mayo research.
Mayo receives royalties from sales of the dermatitis iPad app and expects to develop more free and paid iPad apps in the future, according to spokeswoman Kathy Anderson. She declined to reveal specifics on any iPad apps in development, beyond saying some would be oriented toward consumers and others would be aimed at medical providers. Mayo has already seen the downside of app development: forgeries. The health system has nothing to do with one app that promises to guide users through the Mayo Clinic diet.
To impart history
Cleveland Clinic has come up with one of the more unique uses for a hospital-developed app: It has developed a “Heritage” app that takes users on a tour through the renowned health system’s history. The app walks users through a lesson on some of the medical advancements the Clinic has spearheaded and the doctors who made them happen, featuring photos and videos. It includes an interactive time line and stories of the history behind the 50 buildings on its 166-acre campus.
Central Ohio hospital system OhioHealth has developed a women’s health app that’s designed to connect ob/gyn patients to their physicians. In addition to appointment reminders and explanations of tests, the app provides women with educational information about pregnancy and a personalized time line that allows patients to follow their progress. OhioHealth has released versions of the app for the iPhone, iPad and Android operating systems.
Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky has created an app that offers patients quick access to first aid information on topics like animal bites and heatstroke. It also features a medical library with articles on diseases and health tips, as well as health trackers that allow patients to monitor their weight, blood pressure and blood glucose.