Study: Decision Support-Enabled Mobile Apps Help Nurse Diagnoses

February 25, 2015 in News

Nurses who used a mobile application with evidence-based decision support tools are significantly more likely to diagnose depression, weight issues and tobacco use than nurses using not using such tools, according to a study published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Innovation Technology reports (Walsh, Clinical Innovation Technology, 2/24).

Study Details

For the study, Columbia University School of Nursing researchers analyzed diagnosis rates of adult and pediatric depression, obesity and tobacco use during 34,349 patient exams carried out by 363 registered nurses enrolled in the school’s nurse practitioner programs (Goth, Health Data Management, 2/24). The nursing students were randomly assigned to mobile devices preloaded with either an app with evidence-based decision support tools or an app that provided nurses with simple tools to record patient exam results.

According to the researchers, the decision support tool app prompted nurses to have detailed conversations with patients.

In addition, the app calculated a patient’s body mass index to quickly determine individuals who could benefit from interventions such as weight-loss counseling (Pai, MobiHealthNews, 2/23).

Study Findings

The study found that diagnosis rates among nurses using the app with decision support tools were:

  • 33.9% for diagnoses of obese and overweight patients, compared with 4.8% for those who used the other app;
  • 11.9% for tobacco use, compared with 2.3% for nurses using the other app;
  • 8.8% for adult depression, compared with 0.2% for nurses using the other app; and
  • 4.6% for pediatric depression, compared with 1.1% for nurses using the other app.


Lead author Suzanne Bakken said that the app with decision support tools might have increased diagnoses of the health issues because it instructed nurses to adhere to evidence-based screening, diagnosis and condition management guidelines, and prompted detailed conversations with patients.

In a statement, Bakken said, “What clinicians need is decision support tools that fit into their workflow and remind them of evidence-based practices. 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” (Health Data Management, 2/24).

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