Objective: Many mobile phone resources have been developed to increase access to health education in the developing world, yet few studies have compared these resources or quantified their performance in a resource-limited setting. This study aims to compare the performance of resident physicians in answering clinical scenarios using PubMed abstracts accessed via the PubMed for Handhelds (PubMed4Hh) website versus medical/drug reference applications (Medical Apps) accessed via software on the mobile phone.
Methods: A two-arm comparative study with crossover design was conducted. Subjects, who were resident physicians at the University of Botswana, completed eight scenarios, each with multi-part questions. The primary outcome was a grade for each question. The primary independent variable was the intervention arm and other independent variables included residency and question.
Results: Within each question type there were significant differences in 'percentage correct' between Medical Apps and PubMed4Hh for three of the six types of questions: drug-related, diagnosis/definitions, and treatment/management. Within each of these question types, Medical Apps had a higher percentage of fully correct responses than PubMed4Hh (63% vs 13%, 33% vs 12%, and 41% vs 13%, respectively). PubMed4Hh performed better for epidemiologic questions.
Conclusions: While mobile access to primary literature remains important and serves an information niche, mobile applications with condensed content may be more appropriate for point-of-care information needs. Further research is required to examine the specific information needs of clinicians in resource-limited settings and to evaluate the appropriateness of current resources in bridging location- and context-specific information gaps.
Keywords: decision making; mHealthEd; mobile health; mobile phones.