51 Ideas for an app to improve patient care

One of the dilemmas healthcare practitioners come to me with is they have no idea what sort of things an app can do. So, here is a list of 51 ideas for an app to improve patient care. Note: This is by no means a definitive list, the options are endless. I have categorised the different types of ideas for easier reference.

Apps can inform

Some examples of information provided to patients/clients that could be replaced or complemented by an app include:

  1. What is palliative care?
  2. What to bring to hospital.
  3. Breathing exercises.
  4. Your short-stay surgery.

Apps can provide checklists

  5. What to bring to hospital for an extended stay.
  6. What to have at home to prepare for the arrival of a baby.
  7. A list of daily exercises for strengthening a broken leg.

A checklist app would enable users to tick off items easily by touching the screen, or perhaps it could alert a user when to complete an item or activity on the checklist.

Apps can instruct

Instruction apps instruct people on how to do things. Often prescriptive, they can include images and videos to further explain how to undertake a process.

  8. How to get a person in and out of a car.
  9. How to transfer a person from bed to a chair.
10. How to give an injection.
11. How to change the syringe on a syringe driver.
12. How to draw up insulin.
13. How to calculate a morphine dose.
14. How to get from point A to point B in hospital.
15. How to change a dressing.
16. How to wash hands correctly.
17. How to maintain an antiseptic technique.
18. How to bathe a baby.
19. How to use a nebuliser.
20. How to use an inhaler.
21. How to sit a person up in bed.
22. How to prevent pressure ulcers.
23. How to maintain mouth health.
24. How to minimise the effect of nausea and vomiting when undergoing chemotherapy.
25. How to push a wheelchair.
26. How to get a wheelchair up and down a step/gutter safely.
27. How to give a sponge bath.
28. How to encourage voiding.
29. How to prevent deep vein thrombosis whilst resting in bed.
30. How to know when someone has died.
31. How to prevent musculoskeletal disorders when caring for others.
32. How to look after your plaster cast/back slab.

Apps can guide

There are also many types of apps that could answer questions that begin with: What do I do when _________ occurs? Here are 12 ideas to get your brain ticking:

33. What do I do when someone dies?
34. What do I do when the syringe driver doesn’t seem to be working?
35. What do I do when someone has not opened their bowels for 3 days?
36. What do I do when someone tells me they are having suicidal thoughts?
37. What do I do when I don’t know who to call?
38. What do I do when my loved one is admitted to hospital?
39. What do I do when the person I’m caring for is not eating?
40. What can I do to take care of myself when all my energy is drained by looking after somebody else?
41. What do I do if I miss an insulin dose?
42. What do I do if I have forgotten my inhaler?
43. What do I do if my baby does not settle?
44. What do I do if I can no longer look after my husband at home?

Apps can communicate

Why are smartphones and tablet apps so great for communication? One word; mobility. Apps are so much more mobile than a desktop computer or laptop. A smartphone or tablet can sit on a bedside table; its camera can be positioned at many different angles; it can be used to communicate with the healthcare professional from wherever the patient is.

Remind and alert

45. Pressure area alert: Alerts a caregiver if a patient has not changed position within a certain period.
46. Deep breaths: If a patient is bed-bound, an alert could be set up to remind him/her to take deep breaths or do leg exercises each hour, with instructions on how this is best done. These instructions could be written or in video format. The app may even have an audio component that could time the breaths (Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and be set to repeat at designated intervals.
47. Save the date: Apps can be used to remind patients for things like getting a vaccination, going to the optometrist, getting an annual bowel test, scheduling a mammogram or cervical cancer screening, etc.
48. Blood sugar levels: Alerts can remind patients with diabetes when to take insulin or check blood sugar levels. This could also be incorporated into a monitoring app that records blood sugar readings and alerts the doctor or nurse if they are above/below a certain range. This could be especially useful for children recently diagnosed with diabetes who may not properly understand how important monitoring their blood sugar is. As digital natives who have had access to this type of technology from birth, they should feel comfortable using it.
49. Pre-surgery prep: There could be an app that reminds surgical patients to pre-shower or commence fasting.

More complicated apps might allow for alerts that connect with people outside the health institution-patient relationship. For example:

50. If someone has not moved or hasn’t got out of bed by a certain time each day, a neighbour, son or daughter, sibling, or nurse can be alerted so they can visit and ensure everything is okay.
51. As a person withdraws into themselves during a bout of depression, the number of times they communicate via text message each day may also diminish. An alert could be set to notify a key person that the depressed individual has not texted for a certain number of hours or days.

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