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Little Clinical Evidence Qualifies Utility of Mobile Apps Designed for Palliative Care

The unprecedented digital connectivity and use of smartphone technology have transformed how people access, share, and communicate information – including information about health care. As of mid-2015, there were more than 165,000 mobile health applications (apps) in use worldwide, illustrating the important role of mobile technology in the way health care is delivered and received.

While there has been a rapid proliferation of apps developed for palliative care clinicians, there is little information readily available on the utility and evidence base for the majority of these applications, a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) reveals. The research, published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, identified and reviewed 46 available palliative care-related smartphone applications for clinicians.

“In the new media and digital age, the number of apps targeted to clinicians will continue to increase. However, it is not clear how palliative care apps will shape clinical practice, patient referrals to hospice, delivery of palliative care or patient/family outcomes,” says lead author Salimah H. Meghani, PhD, MBE, RN, FAAN, Associate Professor of Nursing and Term Chair of Palliative Care. “If the app industry is going to proliferate, as has been demonstrated in the past few years, there should be a concerted discussion within the professional community about developing a rating system for the quality of palliative care apps.”

Co-authors of the study include Meredith A. MacKenzie, PhD, RN, CRNP, CNE, College of Nursing, Villanova University; Brianna Morgan, MSN, RN, Penn Nursing;  Youjeong Kang, PhD, RN, School of Nursing, University of Washington; and Anum Wasim, BSc, and Saleem Sayani, CPHIMS, PMP, ITIL, both of the Aga Khan Development Network.