Reviewed by Abbie Jacobs, RN, BSN
If you’ve been working in medicine for very long, you already know that the field has been a little slow on the uptake when it comes to adopting new technologies. And by slow, we mean “molasses at the North Pole” slow. It’s nothing to find hospitals still struggling to adopt medical information systems from the late nineties.
But the medical software field has slowly been gathering steam. If there is still a lot of institutional resistance to making big changes, the smartphone revolution has moved many of the obstacles out of the way for individual practitioners to adapt the latest and greatest healthcare information technologies.
The right app can make your work faster and more accurate. Information at your fingertips is literally a lifesaver for nurse practitioners, no matter what your specialty. If the apps are expensive, it’s also true that the stakes are high. The investments are worth it.
All you need is a smartphone and a credit card, although some apps, like that from the CDC, are completely free.
The Sanford Guide is a classic reference work that has gone digital and interactive.
The infectious disease guide is updated monthly with the latest research and treatment information and is integrated with calculators, algorithms, and tables to ease your workflow. Even better, the content is cited so you can check out the underlying sources in case you have additional questions about the research.
PediSTAT is a specialized tool aimed squarely at pediatrics practitioners.
The calculators built into the app can provide results with only a known age, date of birth, weight, and length or height… a great feature for patients who can’t necessarily offer you much in the way of verbal history. It also has pediatric-specific medication dosing and equipment sizes, filling in a hole that many other tools are missing in this space.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts out its own app for easy one-tap access to vast volumes of current data collected and collated by the agency.
This App is an example of your tax dollars at work to support the work of public health officials and other healthcare proessionals. The most up-to-date health information available is put together in easily viewed charts and figures so you can keep track of current concerns in healthcare and stay on top of emerging and infectious disease patterns.
If you find it difficult and unnatural to come up with just the right phrasing to describe the clinical condition of your current patient, Standard Dictation is a gift from the literary gods.
Not all nurse practitioners have a gift for dictation, but all of them will find themselves responsible for producing reports throughout their career. Standard Dictation includes standard medical dictation templates for physicals, counseling, patient histories, and procedures that can bail you out of almost any linguistic tight spot.
Human Anatomy Atlas is your go to quick reference resource for all things anatomical.
Let’s face it, no matter how intently you studied human anatomy in your nursing master’s degree program, there’s a lot going on under the skin that you’re going to forget in practice. Depending on your specialty, you may only deal with certain structures regularly. Calot’s Triangle? Unless you’re John Carter, you might have to look that one up. Human Anatomy Atlas has you covered for that any other difficult and uncommon structures you might need to know about on a moment’s notice.
Medscape is another medical reference application in a large crop of them, but it has a few features to help it stand out.
It offers a visual database of drugs, OTCs, and supplements that allows you to check the grubby handful of pills your patient hands you and identify them by color, shape, and imprint. It also has a drug interaction checker to go along with it, so you can verify you’re not about to prescribe some lethal combination, and the usual array of medical calculators.
VisualDx is a revolutionary differential diagnostic tool that combines machine learning with longstanding medical diagnosis practices to offer fast and accurate clinical decision support to medical providers.
Using a digital database composed of more than 100,000 photographs, it can take observational and statistical data from an individual patient case and quickly offer a range of likely conditions for visual comparison. The manufacturer claims a 120 percent improvement in diagnostic accuracy over traditional methods alone.
Figure1 is the inevitable social media app for healthcare professionals.
It’s essentially Instagram with HIPAA compliance baked in. You can take pictures of unusual conditions or imagery and upload them for other verified medical practitioners to learn from or comment on. The app has built-in facial blurring and manual image editing features to preserve patient privacy. Patients can sign consent forms right on the phone using a finger or stylus, too.
Epocrates puts the ICD-10 right on your phone, making it easy to sort out those pesky billing questions… and have a good laugh from time to time.
If, during a slow moment in the office, you have not at some point hauled out the ICD and had a good chuckle at some of the possible diagnostic codes, you’re really missing out. If W61.12XA “Struck by macaw, initial encounter,” or V97.33XD “Sucked into jet engine, subsequent encounter” don’t spark your dark medical sense of humor, you may be in the wrong business. But Epocrates also far more than that, with a drug formulary and interaction checker, reference table, calculators, and a pill identification database.
Nursing Central is the Swiss Army Knife of Apps for nursing students and professionals.
You’re probably already familiar with Nursing Central from your nursing school days, or from your early days on the job. Just because you’ve moved up the ladder to become an APRN doesn’t mean it’s any less useful, though! The classic combined reference, including Davis’s Drug Guide, Taber’s Medical Dictionary, and Davis’s Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests together with the usual array of calculators and an integrated journal lookup tool makes Nursing Central as indispensable to APRNs as it is to LPNs and RNs.