Nikita Joshi, MD, FACEP, loves crowdsourcing. Whether it’s Facebook or open-access medical wikis, the director of the emergency department at Alameda Hospital in Alameda, California, sees the value of other people’s knowledge and opinions.
Hence her ACEP19 presentation, “There’s an App for That! Phone Apps You Should Know About,” that served both as a list of useful mobile applications – for practical use and as medical references – and as a roadmap for how and when to use them.
Dr. Joshi said that when emergency physicians are using apps as a tool, they need to let everyone in the room know that.
“You could take your phone out when you’re taking care of the patient,” she said. “Do they think you’re distracted? Do they think you’re texting your spouse? Do they think you’re ordering food? Or do they realize you’re using the app to help you take care of them?”
And it’s not just the public who needs that assurance. Dr. Joshi urged emergency physicians to realize what it looks like to colleagues when they’re checking their phone in front of a patient.
“Does it make you look more or less professional with your nurses and your team when you pull out your phone?” she asked.
Dr. Joshi noted some of the most valuable smartphone apps are built in. Take the timers, which are useful for manually counting a patient’s heart rate. Or the flashlight, which is “guaranteed going to be better than the otoscope that probably doesn’t work and is hanging on your wall.”
Among the apps that Dr. Joshi promoted for clinical practice and medical reference were Pedi STAT (for treating pediatric patients in ED/critical-care settings); Epocrates (a pharmaceutical reference tool that can identify pill by shape, color and imprint code); Eye Chart (a visual acuity tool) and palmEM (an emergency medicine reference guide).
She also highlighted Read by QxMD, an app that can serve as a single point-of-contact for burgeoning research.
“They do a great job of going through journals,” Dr. Joshi added. “If you go through their filters and tell them the specialties you’re interested in…they will email you references that have come out in recent publications.”
Another useful app – albeit it a non-medical one – is Google Translate, which is surprisingly efficient at bridging language gaps, particularly when physicians don’t want to waste time waiting for an interpreter to arrive.
“Nobody wants to have to wait an hour before we speak to an elderly, demented patient in another language,” Dr. Joshi said. “In those cases, we often end up doing more testing, more CT scans – maybe none of that is necessary.”
Dr. Joshi also suggested using apps that focus on physician well-being. Keep a DoorDash-type app on your phone to make sure that dinner doesn’t depend on the cafeteria being open. Put Peloton on there to help motivate better fitness.
But while Dr. Joshi is clearly a promoter of apps and their efficacy, her wellness concerns also tell her that sometimes it’s time to go old school.
“When it comes to our heath and the amount of screen time that we’re spending,” she said, “we may want to put down the phone, rest our eyes and actually focus on the real world.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer from New Jersey.