Smartphone apps to support hospital prescribing and pharmacology education: a review of current provision

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Abstract

Junior doctors write the majority of hospital prescriptions but many indicate they feel underprepared to assume this responsibility and around 10% of prescriptions contain errors. Medical smartphone apps are now widely used in clinical practice and present an opportunity to provide support to inexperienced prescribers. This study assesses the contemporary range of smartphone apps with prescribing or related content. Six smartphone app stores were searched for apps aimed at the healthcare professional with drug, pharmacology or prescribing content. Three hundred and six apps were identified. 34% appeared to be for use within the clinical environment in order to aid prescribing, 14% out with the clinical setting and 51% of apps were deemed appropriate for both clinical and non-clinical use. Apps with drug reference material, such as textbooks, manuals or medical apps with drug information were the commonest apps found (51%), followed by apps offering drug or infusion rate dose calculation (26%). 68% of apps charged for download, with a mean price of £14.25 per app and a range of £0.62–101.90. A diverse range of pharmacology-themed apps are available and there is further potential for the development of contemporary apps to improve prescribing performance. Personalized app stores may help universities/healthcare organizations offer high quality apps to students to aid in pharmacology education. Users of prescribing apps must be aware of the lack of information regarding the medical expertise of app developers. This will enable them to make informed choices about the use of such apps in their clinical practice.

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