Assessing the global reach and value of a provider-facing healthcare app using large-scale analytics.
BACKGROUND: The rapid global adoption of mobile health (mHealth) smartphone apps by healthcare providers presents challenges and opportunities in medicine. Challenges include ensuring the delivery of high-quality, up-to-date and optimised information. Opportunities include the ability to study global practice patterns, access to medical and surgical care and continuing medical education needs.
METHODS: We studied users of a free anaesthesia calculator app used worldwide. We combined traditional app analytics with in-app surveys to collect user demographics and feedback.
RESULTS: 31 173 subjects participated. Users were from 206 countries and represented a spectrum of healthcare provider roles. Low-income country users had greater rates of app use (p<0.001) and ascribed greater importance of the app to their practice (p<0.001). Physicians from low-income countries were more likely to adopt the app (p<0.001). The app was used primarily for paediatric patients. The app was used around the clock, peaking during times typical for first start cases.
CONCLUSIONS: This mHealth app is a valuable decision support tool for global healthcare providers, particularly those in more resource-limited settings and with less training. App adoption and use may provide a mechanism for measuring longitudinal changes in access to surgical care and engaging providers in resource-limited settings. In-app surveys and app analytics provide a window into healthcare provider behaviour at a breadth and level of detail previously impossible to achieve. Given the potentially immense value of crowdsourced information, healthcare providers should be encouraged to participate in these types of studies.