GPs know there are potential benefits of recommending smartphone apps to patients but need professional guidance to avoid their consult feeling like a “Telstra shop,” a study says.


Researchers at Bond University recently analysed the results from the 2017 RACGP technology survey and found while two-thirds of GPs use apps professionally for themselves, only half are recommending them to patients.

The study surveyed more than 1000 GPs with a median age of 51.4 years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the longer practitioners had been in general practice, the less likely they were to recommend mobile apps to their patients. 

“The main reasons [for not recommending apps] included GPs not seeing how mobile technology could benefit their day-to-day practice (39%) [and] not being confident on how to use mobile technology safely in daily practice (20%),” the study authors said.

Other reasons for not using smartphone apps included working in a practice where using personal mobile devices wasn’t allowed and being limited by consultation time constraints.

Dr Oyuka Byambasuren (MD), co-author and researcher at the Bond University institute of evidence-based healthcare, said more training was needed for GPs to feel confident accessing and discussing health apps with patients.

“Most GPs said they would like this in the form of online training videos or podcasts from a reliable organisation which they could watch in their own time,” she said.

In addition, the survey specifically asked doctors about six apps currently listed in the RACGP’s HANDI guide. These included apps for common conditions such as smoking cessation and insomnia. However the majority of GPs (72%) said they did not recommend any of these.

Instead, GPs tended to recommend apps for diet and nutrition, exercise and women’s health problems.

GP professional bodies needed to create a comprehensive list of trustworthy mobile health apps, Dr Byambasuren said.

“Healthcare professionals need guidance on the quality of mHealth apps to assist in their adoption into clinical practice,” the study authors said.

“In the absence of notable initiatives from government or the private sector to regulate app quality and safety, professional organisations must take the lead to address this challenge,” they concluded.

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth, 3 June