Devices & Technology

Nurses Find Favorite Apps to Help with Patient Care

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By Megan M. Krischke, contributor 

April 15, 2011 - Has everyone gone mobile? It certainly seems so, and nurses are starting to get on board.

As handheld devices are becoming more pervasive, the variety of applications (apps) available for them is increasing exponentially. There are apps designed for virtually every task, pastime and work endeavor, including nursing. While some hospitals are limiting the use of smart phones on the job because of security risks, others are subscribing to suites of applications to make available to their providers.

Unbound Medicine provides a suite of applications under the name Nursing Central, along with other nursing related apps. Unbound’s founder, a physician, began the company after recognizing that the wealth of information and resources available to clinicians was often difficult to access quickly at the bedside. The Nursing Central suite, which is compatible with most mobile devices, includes Davis’s Drug Guide, Diseases and Disorders, Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, selected MEDLINE journals and Davis’s Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests.

An initial annual subscription to Nursing Central costs less than purchasing all of the individual texts in hard copy and provides a year of updates and online access to the resources. One thing that is relatively unique about this application is that once you have purchased it, you can always access these texts on your device. An ongoing subscription is required for continued updates and online access.

“The Nursing Central app is something that nurses can use from the time they are students and all the way through their professional nursing career,” commented Brian Cairy, director of marketing for Unbound Medicine.

Rick Russotti, CIC, EMTP, a student nurse at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y., has been using nursing mobile apps on his iPod Touch since he began nursing school nearly two years ago. His “go-to” app is InformedRN. He had used Informed’s hard copy materials for EMTs in his previous career as a firefighter and was always impressed by how quickly he could find the information he was looking for. He has discovered the same to be true in their electronic version.

“The InformedRN interface is very smooth--I appreciate the ‘touch to expand’ and ‘continue reading’ options. Also the graphics are fantastic and don’t lose quality when magnified. Generally speaking, the quality of the content is better than other things I’ve looked at. Some products simulate a textbook, but I want something that serves more as a memory aid and is very concise,” Russotti explained.

Russotti also uses the free versions of Epocrates and Medscape primarily for looking up medications and medication interactions and to use the calculators. Medscape also offers a medical news brief.

Russotti uses his apps both for studying and working in a clinical setting, but cautions that many facilities prohibit use of devices with cameras.

At the Cleveland Clinic,  nurses do not typically use handheld devices such as iPods or iPhones in bedside care; instead, a mixed model of workstations on wheels (WOWS), wall-mounted PCs and desktop computers are available, explained Susan Stafford, RN, BSN, MPA, MBA, associate chief nursing officer for nursing practice and informatics for the Cleveland Clinic Health System.

“With these computers, providers can access an application suite approved and utilized across the Cleveland Clinic organization. Our application suite includes the EMR, communication and education for staff and patients and is a part of data collection, analysis and reporting,” Stafford said. “Many of our applications are not formatted for the smaller screens found on handheld devices at this time.”

There is a wide range of mobile apps that pertain to the nursing field, including a Bishop’s Score calculator for use in labor and delivery, the Glucose-Charter that helps diabetics self-monitor, a database of laboratory tests and medical dictionaries. A number of apps provide flashcards for student nurses, and one application called ScribbleDoc even helps decipher handwriting.

“I see the use of handheld devices as being the way of the future,” commented Russotti. “Having this information at your fingertips will reduce medical errors and reduce burdens on staff by essentially having a whole stack of reference materials right in your pocket. If I want to double-check a medication I can do that right at the bedside without running back to the nurses’ station to look it up.”

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