The first step is to learn all that you can about how mobile technology can complement medicine. I’ve listed some of the top mobile medical blogs here for you to read if you’re not reading them already. Attend conferences specific to mobile medicine if you can, or more tech-oriented library conferences. If you struggle to attend these conferences, do what you can to participate in conferences online. Follow a twitter hashtag for a conference that you can’t attend, or check the website for presentations that they’ve shared post-conference. I’ve listed many resources on mobile technology in libraries on a METRO LibGuide, so check that out when you get the chance. Communicate with your vendors about your interest in mobile apps and websites. You may have mobile access to some databases and resources already without needing to change your contract. Also, get the conversation going amongst staff about what devices they own professionally and even personally. Some staff members may be enthusiastic about their devices and be willing to share their expertise from a user’s perspective.
Next, start engaging your patrons about mobile devices. Taking a survey can be a great way to get a sense of what devices your hospital staff and patients are using. Make sure to ask about what medical apps or websites they are already using. Delve into your website statistics to see if you can determine what kind of mobile traffic you are getting on your library website. 26 percent of US adults used their mobile phones to access health information in the past year, according to a new Cybercitizen Health study by Manhattan Research. http://mobihealthnews.com/13966/study-26-percent-are-mobile-health-users/ Among cell phone owners, 42% own a smartphone as of May 2011. This means that 35% of all American adults own a smartphone . http://www.pewinternet.org/Static-Pages/Trend-Data/Device-Ownership.aspx
Additionally, try contacting your IT department and see if they are willing to share statistics on what devices are purchased for staff. Also, don’t forget to ask hospital staff about what devices they are using during one-on-one interactions. Create a list of “expert” users for particular devices, so that you have a list of contacts when you want someone to test an app that you are offering. About 83% of physicians own at least one mobile device and about one in four doctors are &quot;super mobile&quot; users who leverage both smartphones and tablet computers in their medical practices, according to a survey by online physician community QuantiaMD, Health Data Management reports http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2011/6/20/many-physicians-have-mobile-devices-some-are-super-mobile-users.aspx
Next, once you have a sense of what your users are doing, you can start developing. I’m including here links to Code4Lib articles on designing mobile websites and apps, which I recommend. There’s a bit of a debate about whether you should develop a mobile app or website for your library, and Emily will talk a bit more about this. Sloan Kettering is redesigning our website to be mobile friendly, using responsive web design, something called the 960 Grid. But while we work on that, we already created something which has been very useful to our patrons and did not require too much tech-saavy to create. We created a LibGuide listing selected medical mobile apps for our patrons. We divided the list into sections by device: Android, Blackberry, iPhones, and iPads and also role: clinicians, lab researchers, nurses, and patients. In this way, we’ve handled these new type of resources- mobile apps and websites in a traditional librarian way- collection development. We’ve even posted our collection development policy on the guide, if you’d like to take a look at that. We’ve gotten over 7,000 hits on the guide.
As soon as you can, start teaching what you’ve learned about medical mobile resources to your patrons. The first thing you can do is start promoting mobile resources during one-on-one interactions with patrons. If you see a patron with a smartphone, mention a medical app they might be interested in, and if you have it listed somewhere on your website or on a LibGuide, guide them to it. You don’t even need to be an expert user of that device to promote the app- provide them with the URL or a QR code to scan, and let them drive. You also can start with small changes that can have a big impact by incorporating a slide or two on mobile resources into existing classes where appropriate. Finally, when you’re ready, offer workshops on mobile resources, and hands-on is always a plus. At Sloan Kettering, we’ve held clinics in the hospital cafeteria where we guide patrons to selected medical mobile apps. I’m also working on a class taught with iPads that we have in the library. It’s a hands-on class where patrons will learn to look up an article on PubMed, view anatomy CT images, and even download 3D images of proteins from the Protein Data Bank.
My final point is that with all the buzz and excitement about smartphones, people can forget about some really cool health initiatives that are happening using the simple and relatively cheap mode of texting. Text4Baby is an example. It was launched by a public and private partnership in February 2010, and it is available in all 50 states, and has had more than 130,000 sign up for regular text messages with health tips timed to a baby’s due date. Some interesting facts to note are that 40% of births in the US are covered by Medicaid and almost 80% of Medicaid patients send and receive text messages regularly. Texting is a way to reach patrons with more basic cell phones so it is a great way to increase health information literacy. Try brainstorming ways to incorporate texting into your library. Some libraries are texting overdue reminders and allowing patrons to renew items via text. Other libraries allow you to send call numbers from the catalog to your phone, or donate to the library via text message.