While there has been plenty of data documenting the use of mobile devices and mobile apps available, assessing their use amongst the medical field is still few and far between.

This is especially the case when trying to determine what devices healthcare professionals  are using and for what purposes (e.g. drug dosing, point-of-care, communication).

As such, research in this area is beneficial to recognize where utilization is taking place, and may be beneficial to developers to determine what products may be received well and what areas are open for development and not saturated with other applications.

A recently published piece titled “Smartphone and medical related App use among medical students and junior doctors in the United Kingdom (UK): a regional study” looked into what extent students and doctors were using mobile phones and associated apps for clinical activities, education, and professional development. The survey was conducted online via email with two different surveys sent to junior doctors (analogous to US resident physician position, years 1-2) and medical students (years 1-5). The survey focused on type of device utilized, medical apps owned and found to be useful, and how often they were utilized.

Results of the survey demonstrated a response rate of 257 (15.0%) medical students and 131 (21.8%) junior docs conducting the surveys. Smartphone ownership was found to be 203/257 for medical students and 98/131 for junior docs. Interestingly, the the most common phone owned was the iPhone in both populations (115/203 students, 67/98 junior docs). Overall, students were found to own on average between 1-5 medical apps, and iPhone users tended to own more (Chi sq, p<0.0001).

Additionally, students reported the use of an app over a days course of time to be 1-30 mins, while junior docs reported 1-20 mins. Students favored the use of disease diagnosis/management and drug referencing apps, while junior docs favored clinical score/calculator apps.

Overall, data seemed to indicate that students were using apps for clinical situations more so and with greater frequency than the junior docs. Not surprisingly, amongst medical students, educational apps were more frequently used than clinical apps, most likely due to low frequency of clinical situations. Lastly, both populations supported the idea of an app being developed specifically for their institution for usage.

Takeaway points from this survey demonstrate the high interest amongst medical students to utilize mobile applications to aid in their learning. Docs supported the development of apps such as an antibiotic formulary, on-call detail apps, and hospital specific guidelines available via an app. Future app development should look towards issues relevant to medical education (e.g. medical specific topics, productivity), and location specific apps at institutions for integration among the interns and residents. Lastly, app developers should work closely with institutions and their target audience to create apps that suit their needs and function in a fashion specific to their needs on a daily basis.

Payne KB, Wharrad H, Watts K. Smartphone and medical related App use among medical students and junior doctors in the United Kingdom (UK): a regional survey. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2012;12:121.