- mHealth apps that offer clinical decision support are fast becoming a vital part of the clinician’s toolkit – not only because they can improve patient diagnoses, but also because they make life a lot easier for often-overworked physicians.
Take, for instance, Dr. Francisco Prada, who recently completed his residency in the Georgia-based WellStar Health System and is headed to Washington to start a primary care practice. Prada uses a handful of mHealth apps, and says they help to reinforce his decisions and nudge him along certain care paths or standards of care.
Among those apps is one that helps him with pharmacological decisions, particularly in complex cases where the wrong medication or dosage could lead to complications.
“There’s nothing that is easy to access to determine that information,” he says. “You can spend all your time trying to find an answer. With this (app), you ask a specific question and they essentially do all the legwork for you.”
Prada’s app of choice is InPharmD, developed by an Atlanta-based startup and recently adopted by WellStar Health for all of its physicians. But his experiences point to the benefits of a wide range of digital health tools that help doctors and nurses do what they do better.
“They are saving us a ridiculous amount of time,” he says, “and that adds to the quality of life for physicians.”
Prada’s use of InPharmD is an example of how physicians should use mHealth apps. Because the app is designed to help with complex pharmacological cases, he’s very specific in how he uses it. He’ll only consult it for outpatient care, when he can ask a question and get the information he needs that day or the next. He’ll then have the information he needs by the time he talks to his patient.
More importantly, Prada says he doesn’t use the app to make a diagnosis or a decision, but to gather all the available information he’ll need to make his own decision. It’s a distinction, he says, that many young clinicians sometimes forget.
“They’re not giving me the answer,” he says. “They’re giving me the data. They’re giving me the numbers and articles. They’re giving me the facts. They’re giving me what I need so that I can make my decision.”
Prada says mHealth apps for clinical decision support are designed to give expert opinions and point the user toward published studies and standards of care. They’re designed to support the clinician’s decisions, not replace them.
“As residents, we can fall into that trap of taking expert opinions” as gospel, he adds.
Prada, who has used the app for the last three years and now consults it weekly, says clinicians are weighed down to the point of frustration by documentation and other tasks that take them away from patient care. mHealth apps that can gather needed clinical resources in one place for review, he says, greatly improve that workflow.
“When I see a patient, I’m not exhausted and I’m not frustrated because I spent so much time looking for an answer,” he says.
And that’s a benefit for both doctor and patient.