Mobile Health Apps Providing Information on Drugs for Adult Emergency Care: Systematic Search on App Stores and Content Analysis

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2022 Apr 20;10(4):e29985. doi: 10.2196/29985.


Background: Drug-referencing apps are among the most frequently used by emergency health professionals. To date, no study has analyzed the quantity and quality of apps that provide information on emergency drugs.

Objective: This study aimed to identify apps designed to assist emergency professionals in managing drugs and to describe and analyze their characteristics.

Methods: We performed an observational, cross-sectional, descriptive study of apps that provide information on drugs for adult emergency care. The iOS and Android platforms were searched in February 2021. The apps were independently evaluated by 2 hospital clinical pharmacists. We analyzed developer affiliation, cost, updates, user ratings, and number of downloads. We also evaluated the main topic (emergency drugs or emergency medicine), the number of drugs described, the inclusion of bibliographic references, and the presence of the following drug information: commercial presentations, usual dosage, dose adjustment for renal failure, mechanism of action, therapeutic indications, contraindications, interactions with other medicinal products, use in pregnancy and breastfeeding, adverse reactions, method of preparation and administration, stability data, incompatibilities, identification of high-alert medications, positioning in treatment algorithms, information about medication reconciliation, and cost.

Results: Overall, 49 apps were identified. Of these 49 apps, 32 (65%) were found on both digital platforms; 11 (22%) were available only for Android, and 6 (12%) were available only for iOS. In total, 41% (20/49) of the apps required payment (ranging from €0.59 [US $0.64] to €179.99 [US $196.10]) and 22% (11/49) of the apps were developed by non-health care professionals. The mean weighted user rating was 4.023 of 5 (SD 0.71). Overall, 45% (22/49) of the apps focused on emergency drugs, and 55% (27/49) focused on emergency medicine. More than half (29/47, 62%) did not include bibliographic references or had not been updated for more than a year (29/49, 59%). The median number of drugs was 66 (range 4 to >5000). Contraindications (26/47, 55%) and adverse reactions (24/47, 51%) were found in only half of the apps. Less than half of the apps addressed dose adjustment for renal failure (15/47, 32%), interactions (10/47, 21%), and use during pregnancy and breastfeeding (15/47, 32%). Only 6% (3/47) identified high-alert medications, and 2% (1/47) included information about medication reconciliation. Health-related developer, main topic, and greater amount of drug information were not statistically associated with higher user ratings (P=.99, P=.09, and P=.31, respectively).

Conclusions: We provide a comprehensive review of apps with information on emergency drugs for adults. Information on authorship, drug characteristics, and bibliographic references is frequently scarce; therefore, we propose recommendations to consider when developing an app of these characteristics. Future efforts should be made to increase the regulation of drug-referencing apps and to conduct a more frequent and documented review of their clinical content.

Keywords: apps; digital health; drug characteristics; drug management; emergency departments; emergency drugs; emergency medicine; emergency professionals; mHealth; medication errors; mobile health; mobile phone; smartphone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Renal Insufficiency*
  • Telemedicine*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations