Are you an obstetrician or gynecologist wondering if there are any apps that might actually enhance instead of distract you from getting work done? If so, a recent article by Farag et al. from Icahn School of Medicine will guide you in the right direction. In the article, researchers set out to identify iPhone and iPad apps that are potentially useful to obstetrician-gynecologists (ob-gyns).

The researchers used 55 MeSH terms associated with ob-gyn to identify apps in the Apple iTunes store. Search terms were entered into the iTunes search engine and a list of unique apps was created. The list of unique apps was grouped into various categories including consumer, medical tools, private office and hospital, conference, simulators, non-English, games, and extraneous.

The researchers found that 242 out of 1,816 unique apps – roughly 13% – were potentially useful for ob-gyns. According to the authors, the MeSH terms with the “highest number of potentially useful apps were ‘gynecology’ (23%), ‘breast cancer’ (17%), ‘obstetrics’ (14%), and ‘pregnancy’ (12%).”

That is an important point for app developers/creators. Less than 25% of the apps were viewed as useful by one target audience – clinicians. Most of the apps were geared towards patients; because clinicians would search using similar terms, seeking very different results, the results clinicians see are pretty low yield. Perhaps some system for labeling apps as clinician apps would be a useful tactic by developers and entities selling apps, such as the Apple iTunes store.

According to the authors, apps were considered potentially useful if “they were apps ob-gyns could use to assist with providing patient care such as Interactive databases, Topic-Specific, Journals, Dictionaries, Sonographer- Centered, Search Engines, Books, Pregnancy Wheels, Calculators, Risk Assessments, Guideline-Specific, Patient Trackers, Sponsored Education, and Provider-Centered Simulators.” The researchers indicated that they did not conduct an in-depth review of the apps i.e. the types of reviews that iMedicalApps does. Rather, they did more superficial reviews just to assess relevance.

If you’re wondering why the researchers didn’t review Android apps, that was one of my first thoughts as well. While they don’t say in their study, the most likely reason is that iPhones have been consistently more popular among physicians than other smartphones. Apple also has substantially more medical apps than Google as iMedicalApps has reported in the past. However, there are a growing number of physicians using Android devices (perhaps due to their greater popularity in the general population) so some discussion of Android apps would have been useful.

The researchers conclude that due to the low percentage of potentially useful apps there is a need for the ob-gyn community to develop an organized effort “to identify, review, and determine the accuracy of apps that can potentially improve the performance of health care providers and lead to better patient outcomes.” They also call for an ob-gyn committee to guide this task. This statement is reflective of ongoing concern in various medical fields, and concerns expressed by iMedicalApps writers, that professionals need to weigh in on the creation of the apps in order to create standards for useful apps and spur more effective and impactful innovation among app developers. Such an organized effort by different fields is likely to benefit patients in the long run.