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Mobile Medical Applications and the Practice Gap

With more than 220 dermatology-related mobile medical applications (MMAs), it is time for healthcare providers to update their technology-knowledge. A study was conducted in September 2013 that exposed a practice gap between mobile apps and their use: while medical apps can improve quality of patient care they are not being fully utilized. MMAs provide helpful tools including “mobile clinical references, decision support tools, physician-education tools, patient-education tools, or even online consultation and remote follow-up tools.” However, with the expanding number of options and their recent developments, it can be hard for physician assistants and other health care providers to know where to start and how to use them. Furthermore, the FDAs recent decision to categorize and regulate some MMAs will require health care providers to be aware of current regulations and requirements.

According to Ashish C. Bhatia, MD, in an article exploring this issue, a number of things could make medical apps more accessible to practitioners. Regular reviews in reputable dermatology journals could help highlight effective apps to implement into clinicians’ practices. National and regional specialty meetings could offer training in how to use apps in self-education, patient education, and point-of-care tools. Online reviews, learning from colleagues, and getting personal recommendations can also be helpful approaches as more people use and discuss their experiences with different apps.

Bridging this gap will require health care providers to patiently learn a new skill. This will mean learning how to download the apps and how to use them with medical attachments. It will also mean staying abreast of what apps are available and what will be beneficial to their individual practices. While new technology can often present a steep learning curve, this is an exciting opportunity for physician assistants to expand how they deliver healthcare, discover new tools and resources, and be part of a growing movement. 

Source: JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(11):1305. doi:10.1001

Image: Intel Free Press

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