Researchers have found that a mobile app equipped with evidence-based guidelines can help nurses better identify people with problems of obesity and depression, leading to higher diagnosis rates.
"Our app focused specifically on the work that nurse practitioners do to identify health problems, counsel patients, and coordinate care plans, resulting in higher diagnosis rates and more opportunities for intervention," said lead study author Suzanne Bakken from the Columbia University School of Nursing.
The study evaluated diagnosis rates for tobacco use, adult and pediatric depression, and obesity during 34,349 patient exams conducted by 363 registered nurses enrolled in nurse practitioner programs at Columbia Nursing.
For each of the health issues studied, mobile apps with decision support features resulted in significantly higher diagnosis rates than apps with only bare-bones tools for recording results from a patient exam.
The app may have worked because it prompted nurse practitioners to follow evidence-based clinical guidelines to screen, diagnose, and manage specific conditions and encouraged detailed conversations with patients about their health, Bakken noted.
For tobacco screening, for example, the app prompted nurses to ask not just about cigarettes but also about other products such as chewing tobacco.
To diagnose patients who are overweight or obese, the app calculated body-mass-index to quickly pinpoint people who might benefit from weight-loss counselling and other interventions.
And with depression, the app prompted nurses to ask a series of questions to make it easier to identify patients with depressive symptoms.
The study was published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners.