The smartphone: Here's how it enhances patient care for urologists

December 1, 2009

The latest generation of mobile phones relagates the "talking" function to the background and offers users a wide array of activities once available only on desktop computers.

The latest generation of these hand-held devices relegates the "talking" function to the background and offers users a wide array of activities once available only on desktop computers. Smartphones use an identifiable operating system, often with the ability to add applications (eg, enhanced data processing, connectivity, or entertainment).

Text messaging. The smartphone has replaced the pager. Physicians who still carry a phone and a pager (and/or a personal digital assistant) can easily consolidate all the functions of both into a single device.

Text messaging is a staple of most phones and data plans, and answering services can easily exploit text messaging to send not just a phone number but also a comprehensive message. Most carriers have interfaces to allow sending an e-mail to the phone and have it display as a text message.

Some devices can automatically render a string of digits as a clickable "link." This allows a physician, for example, to receive a text message, hit the link, and automatically dial the patient. Finally, the text messages are easily stored, forwarded, and retrieved for later review.

Internet access. Physicians of all generations regard access to the Internet as a right, a privilege, and a basic requirement for conducting daily business. Internet access from a smartphone is fast, affordable, and a functional reality. Checking e-mail, accessing airline web sites for schedule information, logging on to a hospital web site, downloading a clinical nomogram, and researching an unfamiliar drug are but a few examples of useful smartphone Internet capabilities for physicians. Almost all web sites can be accessed from a phone and viewed on the small screen.

Physician-specific applications

Applications are stand-alone programs that come with or can be downloaded onto a smartphone and perform useful clinical functions. Most applications can be accessed and purchased via your phone or the Internet. Many are free.

One of the most powerful, Epocrates ( http://www.epocrates.com/), includes basic drug information and much more: formulary information, retail costs, drug interactions, updates, and many useful tables and nomograms that can be used every day in patient care. Infectious disease treatment, lab specimens by type and panel, and many other clinical decision support tools are also available by subscription. Also included is a tool to identify a pill by shape, color, and markings. Skyscape ( http://www.skyscape.com/) is another similar application.

ICD9 Consult ( http://www.icd9consult.com/) is a useful tool when you are looking for that obscure ICD9 code and don't have the latest manual available. A similar application, MedCodes-09 ( http://www.zipchart.com/medcodes/index09.htm), offers CPT as well as ICD9 codes.