Featured Review: Using mobile technologies to promote communication and management of care between healthcare professionals

Many healthcare workers work alone or have little access to colleagues and specialists. This is a common problem for healthcare workers in rural areas or low‐income countries. One possible solution to this problem is to offer healthcare workers advice and support through mobile technologies that allow healthcare workers to get help from colleagues who are not in the same place. For instance, healthcare workers can contact specialists or colleagues with more experience through a phone or the Internet. Healthcare workers can also use their mobile phones or other mobile devices such as tablets.

This systematic review from Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care looked at if healthcare workers using services through their mobile phones or other mobile devices to communicate with other healthcare workers provide quicker access to healthcare, and improve patient health outcomes. Included in this systematic review are 19 relevant studies, which included more than 5766 people who needed health care. Sixteen studies were from high‐income countries.

Mobile technologies probably slightly decrease the time to deliver health care, as well as the number of face‐to‐face appointments, when compared with usual care, and probably increase the number of people receiving clinical examinations for some conditions, including an eye exam for people with diabetes. Mobile technologies may have little or no impact on healthcare workers' and participants' satisfaction, health status or well‐being.

Daniela Gonçalves-Bradley, lead author of the review says, “This review looks at the evidence for three different healthcare scenarios; primary healthcare workers consulting with hospital specialists, emergency doctors consulting with hospital specialists, and community health workers or home‐care workers consulting with clinic staff. The evidence shows that using mobile phones and devices for the communication between health professionals may improve some outcomes; however our confidence in the effect estimates is limited by the certainty of the evidence. As this is a growing area of work, we hope that there will be more robust studies in a future update that will address data‐sharing and privacy concerns and identify common core outcomes.”