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Smartphone apps for point-of-care information summaries: systematic assessment of the quality and content


Background Clinicians need easy access to evidence-based information to inform their clinical practice. Point-of-care information summaries are increasingly available in the form of smartphone apps. However, the quality of information from the apps is questionable as there is currently no regulation on the content of the medical apps.

Objectives This study aimed to systematically assess the quality and content of the medical apps providing point-of-care information summaries that were available in two major app stores. We evaluated apps designed specifically for healthcare professionals and assessed their content development, editorial policy, coverage of medical conditions and trustworthiness.

Methods We conducted a systematic assessment of medical apps providing point-of-care information summaries available in Google Play and Apple app stores. Apps launched or updated since January 2020 were identified through a systematic search using 42matters. Apps meeting the inclusion criteria were downloaded and assessed. The data extraction and app assessment were done in parallel and independently by at least two reviewers. Apps were evaluated against the adapted criteria: (1) general characteristics, (2) content presentation of the summaries, (3) editorial quality, (4) evidence-based methodology, (5) coverage (volume) of the medical conditions, (6) usability of apps and (7) trustworthiness of the app based on HONcode principles. HONcode principles are guidelines used to inform users about the credibility and reliability of health information online. The results were reported as a narrative review.

Results Eight medical apps met the inclusion criteria and were systematically appraised. Based on our evaluation criteria, UpToDate supported 16 languages, and all other apps were English. Bullet points and brief paragraphs were used in all apps, and only DynaMed and Micromedex and Pathway-medical knowledge provided a formal grading system for the strength of recommendations for all the medical conditions in their apps. All the other apps either lacked a formal grading system altogether or offered one for some of the medical conditions. About 30% of the editorial quality assessment and 47.5% of the evidence-based methodology assessment were unclear or missing. UpToDate contained the most point-of-care evidence-based documents with >10 500 documents. All apps except 5-Minute Clinical Consult and DynaMed and Micromedex were available for offline access. Only Medscape complied with the HONcode principles.

Conclusions Future apps should report a more detailed evidence-based methodology, be accessible for offline use and support search in more than one language. There should be clearer information provided in future apps regarding the declaration of authorship and conflict of interest.

  • evidence-based practice

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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