In the effort to provide better tools to future physicians and medical professionals, the Medical College of Georgia released its first homegrown educational application, called MedLabTutor, in the iTunes app store on July 30.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We received more than 800 downloads from 30 countries in just the first four days,” said Ralph Gillies, associate professor of family medicine.
“That’s just where I stopped counting,” said Jennifer Rosamond, lead mobile/web application developer with the office of Information Technology Support and Services with a chuckle. “It might have been more than 30 countries.”
As of Aug. 15, MedLabTutor had been downloaded 1,999 times from users in more than 50 countries. The application teaches students how to read the results of two of the most common patient blood tests: the complete blood count and the metabolic panel.
The application walks them through what is included in each test – for example, the white blood cell count, hemoglobin, and platelet count in the complete blood count – and then how to read and interpret the results in examples provided. The app is not intended to be diagnostic or clinical, Gillies stressed, but it is designed to assist students before they enter their clinical training.
“In a clinical or lab environment, it may not be practical to use a desktop computer or carry a notebook computer, so the mobile platform provides a new level of convenience that can be used anywhere and anytime, whether it is at the patient’s bedside, in the classroom or even at the beach,” said Michael Casdorph, director of MCG Instructional Support and Educational Design.
It allows professors to reach students on multiple levels, according to Gillies, by integrating features that reach the three types of learners. There is video and still imagery for visual learners; embedded audio files for auditory learners; and active tapping and swiping for kinesthetic learners.
As the use of smartphones by medical professionals changes over time, developing those apps could be an important part of MCG HealthSystem. A survey conducted by SDI in 2009 called the “Mobile & Social Media Study: Physicians’ Views of Emerging Technology” found that about 30 percent of physicians access medical information using a handheld device or smartphone. SDI surveyed about 1,200 physicians from 15 specialties, and 95 percent of physicians who used handheld devices or smartphones said they download applications to access medical information.
And future generations of doctors will utilize mobile tools even more. The U.S. Department of Education has earmarked $5 billion in competitive school-reform grants to scale up pilot programs and evaluate best practices. Major foundations are specifically zeroing in on handheld applications for preschool and the primary grade school student.
“It is pretty cutting edge, especially for a health sciences university to have this kind of thing in-house,” Rosemond said. While many professors and universities provide lecture material as podcasts, and a number of companies have developed educational tutorials, MCG is one of only a few health science universities to provide professor- and educator-developed apps.
“MCG is up with the leaders in terms of developing iPhone applications for education,” Gillies said.
There are more than 6,000 health-related applications for smartphones like the iPhone, Blackberry and Android, according to a mobihealthnews review published in March. About 80 percent of the health applications are available through Apple, while Android has about 500 programs, the review found.
Gillies said the university could make these applications available for non-Apple platforms if demand is there in the future. At the moment, there are seven Mac-based applications currently in some phase of development on campus:
• A mobile web app for patient and family-centered care, usable by any devise that has a browser
• BCNav, an iPad-only app for patients who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, which contains a glossary, campus map, treatment timeline, information about treatments for themselves and for families. The MCG Cancer Center has purchased 10 iPads for distribution to patients to keep during their treatment.
• A surgery-procedure app, initially for the iPhone and later for the web. This app for students and residents provides textual info, videos and images of procedures they have to perform in clinic.
• An anesthesiology application that reviews the 15 core procedures that students must master to graduate
• A dental application that reviews the 15 core procedures that students must master to graduate
• An application that mimics a rhinoscopy. It mimics a rhinoscope, so the user can look around as if they’re inside the nasal cavity. It is being developed in partnership with Nick Klein, a medical illustrator for MCG.
• An application that allows users to access articles from the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry from a mobile device.
Previously, MCG was the first health sciences university to offer a set of customized iPhone applications called MCG Mobile; however, those applications were developed through a partnership with Terriblyclever Design, a programming company in California.
MCG Mobile offers applications specific to the health sciences curricula, giving Apple’s iPhone or iPod Touch users access to such cutting edge tools as a gestational calculator, a lipid cholesterol algorithm and a medical calculator with over 135
individual calculations and scoring tools.