One of the updates to the Apple App Store recently is the inclusion of a specific collection entitled, “Apps for healthcare professionals”.

This collection can be found within the ‘Medical Category’.

It is a useful starting point for physicians with new mobile devices looking for relevant apps.

The collection is further subdivided into: Reference Apps, Medical Education Apps, EMR & Patient Monitoring Apps, Nursing Apps, Imaging Apps, Patient Education Apps and Personal Care Apps.

Apple are to be commended for their efforts to categorise the apps within the medical category, which will no doubt help improve future app discovery.

However, the introduction of this collection also brings one or two questions that need answering.

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The introduction of this collection is one of the first ‘app stores’ for medical apps we have seen which offers a basic attempt at categorizing the different types of apps. All of the apps available for the iPhone in this collection are shown below. There are a different selection available for the iPad (not shown).

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There are, though, a number of concerns with this collection that need addressing:

  • Notable omissions

    • One of the most concerning aspects of this collection is the notable omissions from each of the sections. All the apps included are shown above. Notable omissions include the MedHand reference apps. In the imaging section, there is no mention of Osirix or Monster Anatomy. There is no OSCE/USMLE apps in the medical education section. There are a number of apps which are certainly of the standard required to be showcased here and it is a shame to see their omission.
  • Categories included

    • It is arguable that some of the categories healthcare professionals need aren’t included here. This includes things like drug apps (beyond the inclusion of epocrates and micromedex), medical calculator apps, journal apps, procedure apps and so on.
  • How are apps selected into this collection?

    • This is important as it gives certain developers an unfair advantage over others potentially stifling innovation in a crowded ecosystem. For example, there are many very good reference applications out there which were not selected. It is important to establish if there is any conflict of interest from either pharmaceutical companies, publishers or others which may not be acknowledged in the collection.
  • Who verifies the apps selected?

    • A number of  apps  have been shown to be inaccurate or unsuitable for use in healthcare settings by academic researchers. It is vital to know whether or not this collection is curated by someone with medical knowledge who could potentially pick up on unsafe or dangerous apps.
  • No acknowledgement of apps that have received regulatory approval

    • One of the important aspects of medical application usage in clinical settings is the role of regulatory bodies such as the FDA or MHRA. I noted that while there were some apps that have received FDA approval, this was not mentioned at any point.

I don’t want to appear skeptical of the utility of a collection for healthcare professionals as I strongly believe that tools like this will ultimately improve the uptake and use of medical apps amongst professionals.

However, I do think it is important that clinicians are able to rely on the apps chosen to be suitable for use in healthcare settings and therefore, Apple needs to acknowledge any confounding factors. At this stage, the number of apps in this collection is small and any implications of the above will be limited. Although, as the medical app ecosystem continues to evolve, and the number of apps increases, so we may need to see acknowledgement and resolution of some of the above issues.

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