Our newest column on mobile technologies and applications (Apps) is written by Jeanette Centeno a nurse at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey and currently works in the Spinal Cord Unit. This facility is well known for its innovative rehab and nursing care.
By Jeanette Centeno, RN
According to the National Council of Patient Information and Education, about a billion prescriptions are filled each year and more than half are not taken. Patients require extensive education, monitoring, and follow-up to ensure proper compliance. Patients with special needs, cognitive impairments, and learning disabilities may benefit from a nursing plan that requires different applications on smart phones. Since teaching will likely include a significant other and/or family member, using a smart phone could be a great tool to increase compliance.
Definitive steps should be taken to accomplish this task. First assess the level of understanding of the patient. Is the patient oriented to person, place, and time? Is he or she able to express their individual needs? Are there any physical or cognitive problems that may impede their learning? Secondly, explain to the patient and family member the reasons why he/she is taking the medication. Many patients may not even be aware that he/she has an underlying condition that necessitates particular prescriptions. Third, assess any safety issues and provide alternatives.
Once the patient is comfortable, begin to review the properties and actions of the prescribed medications and then introduce smart phone tools such as the Epocrates app (also available for Android). This is a free medical app which can be easily downloaded onto smart phones and is easy to use.) The app can provide very detailed photographs of the medications, including details and descriptions, side effects, and contraindications. Allow time for the patient and family to absorb the information before moving on. Next have him or her become familiar with the app by showing them how to search for medication information on the phone. It may require time and patience but the app is an extremely good tool for teaching which can reduce medication errors, non-compliance, and increase safety.
If the patient suffers from a pre-morbid condition, which requires vast education and follow-up, applications such as the Animated Pocket Dictionary of Hypertension for Android or iPhone provides some guidelines, which may be helpful. It also provides great photographs but is best suited for those that require an in-depth explanation of the disease process.
My MedsList is another wonderful organizational app that enables the user to enter their medicines, prescribing doctors, and pharmacies. Another app which is great for diabetic patients who have a hard time keeping track of diets, insulin changes, and treatment goals is Diabetes Life Harmonized for iPhone. All of these applications can enhance patient teaching but do require a nurse or doctor to monitor the patient and provide proper follow-up.