Posted By Abhi Muthiyan On July 17, 2014

There’s an app for that: Consider the Advantages of Mobile Technologies for Public Health

The Pew Research Center tells us that, “Sixty-seven percent of adults who use the Internet also use social networking sites.” Increasingly, these sites are accessed via mobile devices, in addition to desktops and laptops. So both the use of mobile technologies and social media are not only changing how we access our information, but they are also steadily increasing people’s ability to share and find such data. And now, one of the fastest and most effective ways to find information is via an app or widget.

As of this post, there are currently more than one million apps available for download via the Apple App Store. So why are apps and widgets so popular? They’re simple, and useful. They compile a lot of relevant information into one location that can be accessed with just a click or a tap. It’s like bookmarking a webpage—only better. Apps save time, are easily accessible and are a credible source of information. This can be particularly important in a time of urgency, so apps translate well to the healthcare field and are emerging as an excellent tool for healthcare providers. In fact, several organizations have developed innovative mobile applications for certain situational health purposes. The WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) App, created by NLM, helps first responders in incidents which involve hazardous materials. The interactive First Aid App by the American Red Cross gives free lifesaving first aid instruction. In addition, all sorts of useful mobile health apps can be found here:

Local health departments (LHDs) are among those who can really benefit from using such apps, including by sharing news during emergencies, providing patients with updates on health conditions or sharing daily news specific to public health. In fact, along with actively communicating to residents via Twitter and Facebook, the Chicago Department of Public Health is utilizing mobile health apps to inform its community about public health issues. Some of its community-facing apps include the Chicago Flu Shot app and the Back to School Immunization app, which allow Chicago residents complete access to health-related resources.

While not all LHDs have started developing apps for external use, the advantages offered by apps and widgets are definitely something to explore further. How could the consolidation of information for easy access benefit your workflows and your patients?