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Evidence-based apps: Most ob.gyn. apps not useful to physicians.

Of 1,793 unique apps related to obstetrics and gynecology available via the Apple iTunes Store, only 13% were deemed to be "potentially useful" to their target users, according to obstetrician/gynecologists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, who undertook the assessment.

The fact that 242 apps might be useful to obstetrician/gynecologists is encouraging, but busy clinicians need help in identifying them, Dr. Sara Farag and her associates reported. "Inevitably, health care providers experience app overload, navigating the thousands of medical apps in search of useful specialty-related apps," the investigators wrote (Obstet. Gynecol. 2014;124:941-5).

Dr. Katherine T. Chen, senior author of the study, said in an interview that the team is planning a closer review of the 242 potentially useful apps for a future report.

In the current review, the investigators searched the iTunes Store using 55 ob.gyn. Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms. Surprisingly, "pregnancy" was less helpful than other MeSH terms because it mainly identified apps for use by nonphysicians. The MeSH term "gynecology" identified 23% of the 242 apps that were considered potentially useful to ob.gyns., "breast cancer" identified 27%, "obstetrics" identified 14%, and "pregnancy" identified 12%, reported Dr. Farag.

The investigators divided the master list of ob.gyn.-related apps into nine categories and looked for potentially useful apps in four categories: medical; medical tools; private office and hospital; and simulators. They subcategorized apps as potentially useful if ob.gyns. could use them to assist with providing patient care. These included apps subcategorized as interactive databases, topic-specific apps, journals, dictionaries, sonographer-centered apps, search engines, books, pregnancy wheels, calculators, risk assessments, guideline-specific apps, patient trackers, sponsored education, and provider-centered simulators.

The study also highlighted the fleeting lifespans of some apps: 23 apps turned up in the first search were excluded from results because they disappeared before the final report.

The study did not do in-depth reviews of each app. "The ultimate responsibility of apps falls on the end user, the health care provider," the investigators wrote.

But they also proposed that organized medicine should do more to help the ob.gyn. end user by forming an unbiased committee of experts on "Obstetrics and Gynecology Mobile Technology." The committee could create standardized methods of reviewing apps, including how to assess an app's accuracy and reliability, they suggested.

The study appears to be the first comprehensive review of ob.gyn. apps. Several previous articles reviewed apps in other specialties. One looked at 1,200 infectious disease apps (Clin. Infect. Dis. 2013;57:1145-54). Another looked at apps pertinent to family practice (J. Fam. Pract. 2013;62:362-7). A third picked the top 10 of nearly 300 apps related to emergency medicine (Emerg. Med. J. 2014;31:432-3).

All of the investigators in the current study reported owning Apple iOS products, but they have no other association with Apple and no other financial disclosures. On Twitter @sherryboschert


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Author:Boschert, Sherry
Publication:OB GYN News
Date:Dec 1, 2014
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