Quo vadis smartphones and apps in emergency medicine?

Smartphones and their apps are playing increasingly an important role in emergency situations. Apps exist today for clinicians and laypersons, and include specialised apps that can save more lives by crowdsourcing citizen responders and by reporting emergency incidents and their exact addresses using Open GeoSMS.

by Dr Maged N. Kamel Boulos

Smartphones and specialised apps [1] − namely, software applications running on them − are revolutionising healthcare, leading to both increased mobility at the point of need and participation by engaging all relevant stakeholders, including patients, non-clinical carers, the general public, clinicians and associated organisations [2]. Mobile web access via smartphones and tablets is gradually overtaking conventional desktop Internet use [3], positioning these ubiquitous and increasingly affordable, small form factor (SFF) devices to play a key role in twenty-first-century clinical medicine.

The possibilities are numerous [1] ranging from remote access by clinicians to electronic patient records and medical images from picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) to using specialised medical sensors or other devices which communicate wirelessly with a smartphone (via Bluetooth) or directly plug into it for patient telemonitoring purposes. These include smartphone based fall detection and electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect emergencies, for instance falls or abnormal heart rhythms, and then automatically relay findings as necessary to a remote service where appropriate action can be taken, as in the CAALYX and eCAALYX systems [4].

A recent study [5] compared the use of the PICU Calculator (drugs calculator) on the iPhone with that of the British National Formulary for Children (BNFC) for accuracy, speed and confidence of prescribing in a simulated paediatric emergency. It found that smartphone users were significantly more accurate and faster, whilst prescribers were more confident in their calculations than users of the manual BNFC option, irrespective of the prescriber