Snyder predicts that 2010 will bring with it a lot more video, particularly for instructional purposes. One company to watch is Durham, NC-based Modality, Inc. They create learning and reference applications for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch.
One of their more popular applications is called Procedures Consult. It helps users prepare for, perform, and test their knowledge of common medical procedures encountered in a clinical setting. It uses videos, animations, illustrations, and text.
According to Snyder, many hospitals are using Modality tools to train student nurses, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
For more information about Procedures Consult, and other Modality tools, visit www.modalitylearning.com.
Although admittedly less exciting, smartphones will soon be able to access clinical guidelines. Organizations don't need to invest a lot of time making guidelines suitable for smartphones, since they typically already have the content developed and on their Web sites.
"Associations are realizing that it's not that hard to get your guidelines into an app for the iPhone," says Snyder. "I think you're going to see more associations, societies, and other organizations developing their guidelines for the iPhone, because that's usually when the clinician wants to look at it—at the point of care. It's the same reason they use ePocrates."
10. Revamped reference apps
In addition to the top nine trends listed in Medicine on the ‘Net this month, you can expect to find enhancements to popular applications like ePocrates and UpToDate (an evidence-based, peer-reviewed information source).
"The reference apps have grown up," says Feldman. "They have connectivity to the Internet. So ePocrates, which used to be a simple textbook, now has intelligence."
For example, if a patient brings a mysterious blue pill to an appointment, the physician can look up the pill in ePocrates and determine what medication it is based on its visual characteristics. The tool can also look up drug formularies based on a patient's health plan.
"A lot of people are taking what they already have and then adding additional features and functionality," says Snyder.
In the future, you can expect to find more individuals entering the health informatics industry. According to Feldman, many developers who are releasing smartphone applications don't have a clinical background—and it sometimes shows.
"When I'm on the ward, I work 100 hours a week seeing patients, but at the same time I write a lot of code," he says. "I understand software and system design, but at the same time I understand the clinical care. It's easy to make apps now; it's hard to make them good. If you design these incorrectly, you can kill people."
Smartphones, along with their applications, will continue to evolve in response to the persistent demand for mobile information and tools that solve real-life problems for the growing number of clinicians who will adopt these devices.
The experts predict that the next advance in smartphones may occur when 4G (fourth generation) wireless devices come on the market.
"It basically means that you're going to be walking around with Ethernet speed everywhere," predicts Feldman.
Cynthia Johnson is the editor of Medicine On The 'Net, a monthly newsletter from HealthLeaders Media.