Background: Advanced mobile communications and portable computation are now combined in handheld devices called "smartphones", which are also capable of running third-party software. The number of smartphone users is growing rapidly, including among healthcare professionals. The purpose of this study was to classify smartphone-based healthcare technologies as discussed in academic literature according to their functionalities, and summarize articles in each category.
Methods: In April 2011, MEDLINE was searched to identify articles that discussed the design, development, evaluation, or use of smartphone-based software for healthcare professionals, medical or nursing students, or patients. A total of 55 articles discussing 83 applications were selected for this study from 2,894 articles initially obtained from the MEDLINE searches.
Results: A total of 83 applications were documented: 57 applications for healthcare professionals focusing on disease diagnosis (21), drug reference (6), medical calculators (8), literature search (6), clinical communication (3), Hospital Information System (HIS) client applications (4), medical training (2) and general healthcare applications (7); 11 applications for medical or nursing students focusing on medical education; and 15 applications for patients focusing on disease management with chronic illness (6), ENT-related (4), fall-related (3), and two other conditions (2). The disease diagnosis, drug reference, and medical calculator applications were reported as most useful by healthcare professionals and medical or nursing students.
Conclusions: Many medical applications for smartphones have been developed and widely used by health professionals and patients. The use of smartphones is getting more attention in healthcare day by day. Medical applications make smartphones useful tools in the practice of evidence-based medicine at the point of care, in addition to their use in mobile clinical communication. Also, smartphones can play a very important role in patient education, disease self-management, and remote monitoring of patients.