Medical Apps and Phones
The Cornflower had a nice post, Medical Apps for Smartphones, listing several Healthcare and Fitness applications as well as medical applications for the iPhone.
The two most popular smartphones are the Blackberry (which many different styles and types of phones) and the iPhone. Blackberrys are currently more accepted within healthcare because they were the originators of smartphone secure transmissions of email and data on networks. Many hospital IT departments only allow employees to access the hospital email system using Blackberry devices. The iPhone, however, is a fast up and comer. Once described by a person within my IT department as a great “personal device,” is now seen in the library on the hips and hands of health professionals almost as much as the Blackberry. With the release of Citrix Receiver Application for the iPhone, I think it is a just matter of time (and some big enough wig doctor in the hospital who has an iPhone) and we will be seeing iPhone support within hospital IT departments.
In the mean time there a lot of things to start considering for your library and your customers. First you need to start thinking about re-designing your library web pages to be more mobile friendly. Please for God’s sake when you do that include a link to the full octane website, there is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a mobile site and the one darn link you need is on the regular full website. Additionally, you need to start asking your vendors whether they have a nice mobile ready site. How helpful is it for a patron to be using your nice slick mobile site on their phone only to click on a resource that is not mobile friendly that has flash (a big no no in the smart phone world)?
Not only do you want to eventually create a mobile friendly website, but you might want to try and familiarize yourself with the two main contenders, the Blackberry and the iPhone. The Blackberry is a little more difficult to familiarize yourself with just because there are so many different types of Blackberry devices and each have their own feel. I know some people who love the Storm while others hate it with a passion, likewise with the Curve. There is really only one iPhone. I have had a few doctors ask me my opinion on both devices. I tell them I am an iPhone user, but what they choose depends on a several factors. First their wireless plan, if they aren’t moving to AT&T then they aren’t going to have iPhone. Second and almost as important, how important is it to receive work email? If it is very important then until the hospital IT department decides they want to wake up and support the iPhone and hospital email, a Blackberry is the only choice. If they are still undecided I tell them to go try each of the devices out. They can go to almost any mobile store and play with several Blackberrys. They can also go to AT&T and play with both Blackberrys and iPhones.
You would think the inability to get work emails on the iPhone would make it less popular. That might be, but I know of two staff physicians who specifically selected an iPhone because they liked the feel, how it functions and the various types of medical apps available. I also see more and more medical professionals carrying iPhones these days than people carrying Blackberrys. Perhaps this is because the iPhone has a pretty unique look and is easy to spot.
Additionally, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the various medical apps and medical app vendors for the devices. Two big companies that produce medical texts and resources for mobile devices are Unbound Medicine and Skyscape. Both websites have resources and medical texts for the iPhone and Blackberry and both offer institutional access and pricing. Collective Medicine is a site that sells medical resources for the Blackberry and PDAs, not iPhones. The iPhone’s App Store has gotten somewhat better at organizing their vast collection of apps. QxMD is a site that provides free medical calculators and clinical formulas. They are developed for both the iPhone and the Blackberry.
Why should you create a mobile friendly website and ask library vendors if they have mobile friendly access? Why is it important to know a little bit about the two main type of smart phones and where to find medical apps? Because more and more people are accessing websites from their phones. According to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Projectten years from now the mobile device will be the primary tool from most people to connect to the Internet. That is 10 years from now, why should I care now? In 2020 there won’t be some giant flick of switch and boom everybody has a smartphone and everybody is accessing the Internet. The process will be a gradual flood. The tide of mobile Internet users will continue to rise and not anticipating the rise will leave you treading water. Already in the library I see more and more doctors, nurses, medical students, etc. whipping out their smart phone to look up things, to add due dates to calendars, to find email addresses. Outside of the library I see even more people using mobile devices and accessing the Internet.