Original Research

The use of smartphone apps in clinical practice: A survey of South African physiotherapists

Michael Rowe, Berenice Sauls
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 76, No 1 | a1327 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v76i1.1327 | © 2020 Michael Rowe, Berenice Sauls | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 December 2018 | Published: 20 April 2020

About the author(s)

Michael Rowe, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Berenice Sauls, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: There is anecdotal evidence that physiotherapy clinicians increasingly are using medical apps and health-related apps as part of their clinical practice, and in some cases, even ‘prescribing apps’ to patients. However, there is limited information on how South African physiotherapists use, and what they think about, the integration of mobile apps in their practice.

Objectives: This study aimed to describe the use of smartphone apps as part of clinical practice in a small group of South African physiotherapists.

Method: This study made use of a cross-sectional, descriptive design and a self-administered questionnaire to survey practitioners. The population included all 1300 physiotherapists who were registered with the Orthopaedic Manipulative Physiotherapists Group (OMPTG) of the special interest group of the South African Society of Physiotherapists (SASP), with a sample of 270 out of 1300 who responded (response rate = 21%). Descriptive data are presented using graphs, figures and percentages, and responses to open-ended questions are included in support of the themes.

Results: The majority of the participants used apps as part of their practice (60%) but did not prescribe apps to patients. Most apps are used for administrative and communication purposes. Even clinicians who used apps themselves expressed concerns about prescribing them to patients, and there were clear misconceptions about the use of apps.

Conclusion: Many clinicians in this study reported that there were real benefits to the use of smartphone apps as part of their practice. However, they raised concerns about the more general prescription of apps for clients.

Clinical implications: Further research, education and collaboration amongst all stakeholders is necessary to produce guidelines for the use of apps in clinical practice.


Keywords

health-related apps; medical apps; mobile apps; smartphone apps; clinical practice

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