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Columbia Study Highlights Benefits of Mobile Apps in Nursing

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Mobile apps help people stay connected, share pictures and get the news faster, but a new study from the Columbia University School of Nursing found that an app can also help nurses make more diagnoses when it comes to common chronic conditions.

Published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners and funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, the study evaluated 4,349 patient exams to see the impact that a mobile app designed to help nurse practitioners follow evidence-based clinical guidelines would have on diagnoses and care.

App leads to higher rates of diagnosis
The study randomly assigned apps to some of the 363 registered nurses studying at Columbia’s nurse practitioner program. Nurses who used the app during exams identified patients as overweight, obese, tobacco users or having depression more often than those who did not use the technology.

The app prompts nurses to ask patients questions that would help shed light on potentially important health information, such as asking about tobacco other than cigarettes or calculating a patient’s body mass index in the app to easily alert a nurse to a patient being overweight or obese.

When using the app, nurses identified 33.9 percent of patients as overweight or obese, compared nurses not using the technology who only identified patients this way 4.8 percent of the time. Tobacco use was also identified in patients at a higher rate – 11.9 percent when the app was used and 2.3 percent without the software.

The app also assisted nurses in screening for depression by suggesting lines of questioning that could flag patients as having depression. Nurses who didn’t use the app only diagnosed 0.2 percent of adult patients as depressed, while 11.9 percent were found to have symptoms of depression when the app was used. The numbers are similar with pediatric patients, where 4.6 percent were diagnosed as depressed with the app, compared to 1.1 percent without.

“What clinicians need is decision support tools that fit into their workflow and remind them of evidence-based practices,” lead study author Suzanne Bakken, Ph.D., RN, said in a statement. “Our app focused specifically on the work that nurse practitioners do to identify health problems, counsel patients, and coordinate care plans, resulting in higher diagnosis rates and more opportunities for intervention.”

The University of Columbia explained that this new app differs from many doctor-specific software built for exams because it’s designed for evidence-based diagnosis rather than medical coding and billing.

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Best apps for nurse practitioners
Whether you’re working toward your Master of Science in Nursing or you’re already on your way to becoming an advanced practical nurse, technology is only becoming a bigger part of the job.

Some apps are tailored to NPs and designed to be used in the exam room, while others may prove beneficial to the NP lifestyle. Nurse Together pointed to a few of the best apps for NPs.

Epocrates is an app that gives NPs access to prescription drug information quickly and easily. Stanford Guide is also a great source for drug information and can be conveniently accessed on a phone or computer.

Skyscape is a good option for following what’s new in the medical and research worlds, while apps like Happitique and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention iPad App are great options to prescribe to your most curious patients.

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