1. Section Editor(s): Logsdon, M. Cynthia PhD, WHNP-BC, FAAN

Article Content

Mobile devices are ubiquitous internationally and accompany individuals wherever they go. They are almost as powerful as personal computers and generally are connected to the Internet. They can be loaded with sensors and applications (apps) that collect and relay health information, track individual location, and interact with the user to provide personalized feedback.


Many apps have been developed to address healthcare issues. A report from the Intercontinental Marketing Services (IMS) Institute for Healthcare Informatics (2013) evaluated over 40,000 healthcare apps that were available for download from the United States Apple iTunes App Store. Most apps focused on diet and exercise and had limited functionality. The IMS Institute recommended evaluation of the apps for appropriate use, and integration of the app with other aspects of healthcare.


Mobile apps have been used successfully to change health behaviors in research studies related to physical activity and diet, breast health promotion, cystic fibrosis self-management, and mental health. Populations of pregnant and parenting women have indicated strong interest in use of mobile phones to monitor health. Mobile apps have been used to diagnose and manage preeclampsia, and to provide information to new mothers who were discharged early (Danbjorg, Wagner, & Clemensen, 2014; Dunsmuir et al., 2014).


Although development of health applications for smart phones has progressed at a rapid pace, little data exist on the quality or the scientific basis of applications. These products are often created without input from healthcare professionals and scientists who can provide critical knowledge needed to change relevant outcomes.


User friendliness, convenience, and effectiveness of healthcare apps in monitoring and delivering healthcare interventions have been reported, but more work is needed. Acceptability and use of apps are more likely when consumers are involved in their development. Smart phones, including the use of mobile apps, are tools that can be used more extensively to improve maternal child health. As can be seen from the articles in this series, partnerships between consumers, healthcare professionals, and technology specialists (e.g., engineers, design specialists) are needed to maximize usability, use of best evidence, and use of smart phone functions that best capture needed data and provide interventions that meet the needs and promote the health of mothers, children, and families. Leaving out any of these three partners compromises the potential of the tool.


Nurses are in a unique position to evaluate and use smart phone functions and apps to educate and communicate with new mothers and families. Nurse researchers and clinicians should insist upon stringent evaluation of smart phone interventions to ensure that the best product is being used, that data security is addressed, and that patients and families have provided informed consent for use of data.




Danbjorg D. B., Wagner L., Clemensen J. (2014). Do families after early postnatal discharge need new ways to communicate with the hospital? A feasibility study. Midwifery, 30(6), 725-732. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2013.06.006 [Context Link]


Dunsmuir D. T., Payne B. A., Cloete G., Petersen C. L., Gorges M., Lim J., ..., Ansermino J. M. (2014). Development of mHealth applications for pre-eclampsia triage. IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, 18(6), 1857-1864. doi:10.1109/JBHI.2014.2301156 [Context Link]


Intercontinental Marketing Services Institute for Healthcare Informatics. (2013). Patient apps for improved healthcare: From novelty to mainstream. Retrieved from [Context Link]