COVID-19 and smartphone apps

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Which apps have been increasingly useful to clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has introduced many changes to the way in which healthcare is delivered. Many solutions to these changes have been explored through innovations in technology, such as through the use and development of apps that can be used on smartphones to aid clinicians in their delivery of healthcare (see table 1). As a medical student working as an acute care assistant at my local hospital, I have been able to witness first hand some of these changes, and discuss with practitioners which apps have been increasingly useful to them in this crisis.

Madeleine Oliver reviews popular smartphone apps for clinicians
Madeleine Oliver reviews popular smartphone apps for clinicians

Respiratory physicians in the hospital setting state ‘MicroGuide’1 as a key app used in their practise. This app provides a concise guide as to which antibiotic regimes act as suitable treatments to common infections, on a Trust by Trust basis. Studies have suggested that its use may empower users to break well established but potentially outdated behaviours, providing more up to date care.2 It is undoubtedly increasingly useful during this pandemic at helping with the influx of patients with the severe pneumonia that manifests itself in more severe forms of the disease.3

Many different specialities have also found the app ‘UpToDate’4 highly useful. This app provides evidence-based clinical information to support clinical decision-making. In this pandemic, where so much is unknown and guidelines are changing rapidly, the ability to keep up to date with latest guidelines is both vital and challenging. The UpToDate app facilitates this, and so is particularly useful in this time.

As well as aiding the treatment of COVID-19 patient in hospital, apps have also been developed that help clinicians provide care for patients who aren’t able to come into hospital due to the pandemic restrictions. Many patients are being cared for from home, with clinicians acting remotely. An example of such an app, developed by cardiologists, is the ‘Timed Walk’ app. This uses an algorithm5 for computing walked distance allowing patients to monitor their six-minute walk tests without having to come into the hospital to do this. Reducing patient entry to hospital, reduces pressure on staff, and allows greater repetition of the test.

In the primary health care setting, mobile apps are being used to consult digitally and remotely, allowing GPs to provide consultations without the physical interaction which risks COVID-19 transmission. An app called ‘Nye Health’6 is increasing in use, which allows NHS clinicians to video call patients securely on their personal phones, facilitating the move to e-consultations. Having only launched in March of this year, it now covers over 10 million patients in the UK.6

The use of smartphone apps in clinical practice over the past decade or so has done much to aid medical professionals in their clinical roles. Now that we find ourselves in a global pandemic, this is truer than ever. With the times changing swiftly, we must be adaptable and innovative to find solutions to the problems posed by this virus. So much of life has had to transition to an online, digital format, and healthcare is no different. The increasing use of the apps discussed indicates the positive attitude of many clinicians towards the integration of apps into healthcare. This is particularly prescient in the time of this pandemic, as the use of apps facilitates clinicians to adapt to the new circumstances of providing patient care during this pandemic.

Madeleine Oliver
4th year medical student,
University of Oxford
[email protected]

Other articles in this bulletin:

COVID-19 and the heart
A review of the current data on the association of COVID-19 and the heart

COVID-19 and intervention
Catheter lab activity and COVID-19: damned if you do and…
Impact of COVID-19 on primary percutaneous coronary intervention centres in the UK: a survey

COVID-19 and diabetes
• Expert group practical recommendations: management of diabetes in COVID-19 patients
• New e-learning programmes from the EASD

COVID-19 and cardiac rhythm management
• BHRS video series

COVID-19 and cardiac rehabilitation
• Joint BACPR/BCS/BHF statement on cardiac rehabilitation services


1. Microguide

2. Panesar P, Jones A, Aldous A, et al. Attitudes and behaviours to antimicrobial prescribing following Introduction of a smartphone app. PLoS One 2016;11(4):e0154202.

3. Guo YR, Cao QD, Hong ZS, et al. The origin, transmission and clinical therapies on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak – an update on the status. Mil Med Res 2020;7(1):11.

4. UpToDate

5. Salvi D, Poffley E, Orchard E, Tarassenko L. The mobile-based 6-minute walk test: usability study and algorithm development and validation. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2020;8(1):e13756.

6. Nye Health