Making time-sensitive recommendations based on immunization guidelines during conversations with patients or other health care providers is difficult. Fortunately, mobile applications are available to help make the most accurate and astute clinical judgments.
Approximately 64% of the adult population in the United States and 80% of physicians own a smartphone.1 It is not only a popular communication method, but an easy way to convey information to technology-savvy patients involved in their own health care.
Health Care Providers
A few of the many iPhone immunization applications may prove useful during your next patient interaction. Provided in Table 1 are links to download each respective iPhone application on the Apple app store.
Number of Stars
Link to Download
CDC Vaccine Schedules
The Vaccine Handbook
CDC Yellow Book
First, the CDC Vaccine Schedule provides child, adolescent, and adult immunization schedules organized by age group and medical condition, with visuals showing the CDC’s printed and current vaccine schedules.
To ensure you are up to date with the most recent guidelines, the app provides updates to the vaccine schedule automatically. Additional information ranges from inclusion of a contraindications and precautions table to links for related vaccine resources and websites.
Second, the iPhone application “The Vaccine Handbook: A Practical Guide for Clinicians (The Purple Book)” received critical acclaim and positive reviews from purchasers. Downloading the application provides full access to the 7th edition of the book by Gary S. Marshall M.D., which includes resources for health care providers administering vaccinations.
As an application owner, the intuitive graphics user interface allows the reader to highlight, draw on the text and create notes to record valuable information that may be useful later. Additional information includes vaccine-preventable diseases, rationale for vaccine use, background on immunization program infrastructure, and ways to mitigate issues with concerned patients and families.
Third, the CDC Yellow Book provides health information for patients who plan to travel abroad. The application is fully equipped with the U.S. government’s current travel health guidelines and relevant maps, tables, and charts. Some special features include pre-travel vaccination recommendations and preventive care measures.
This is a valuable application for destination-specific health guidelines with utility across a wide range of practice settings, such as an ambulatory care travel clinic or a community pharmacy.
One advantage of a mobile immunization application for patients is the ability to compile and access personal vaccine information continuously. Using paper health records results in inaccurate or missing patient information in 10% to 60% of cases.2 Mobile applications help patients record information accurately using electronic menus, minimizing transcription errors.
A valuable mobile application for a patient or their family is called My Immunizations. This provides educational resources on vaccine-preventable diseases and up-to-date immunization news. It also allows the user to compile an accurate vaccine history for all members of the family by keeping a digital immunization record in separate profiles.
Another practical feature is the ability to send PDFs of vaccinations to health care providers to ensure reliable documentation. In contrast, concerns arise in the accuracy of self-reported vaccination data, especially without proper validation. This issue can be mitigated using apps that require a health care provider’s signature after data input.
Additionally, use of the iPhone camera to scan the vaccination barcode can be a confirmation method.2 Reminder notifications and text messages have proven to increase vaccinations in pediatric and adult populations.5
Making products that are available on both the iOS store for Apple products and Google Play for Android products will help patients find a product that works best for them and is compatible with their devices. All applications have strengths and weaknesses, but many are free, so patients can explore at their own leisure. Figure 1 illustrates elements of a successful iPhone application based on its intended user.
Mobile applications help providers ensure appropriate and up to date vaccine administration quickly. In addition, these applications allow patients to be in charge of their own health services and maintain their own immunization records. They are reliable methods of standardizing health information amidst expanding immunization services (primary providers, pharmacists, and clinics), patient and provider relocation, and ever-changing health services.
The recent measles outbreak in Washington state further underscores the importance of educating patients and health care providers about proper immunization strategies.6 With close to 50 confirmed cases in southern Washington, the government declared a state of emergency and prompted providers to encourage the measles vaccine.7 In time-sensitive situations, mobile applications can educate patients on vaccination schedules and document previous vaccinations.
Similar outbreaks may continue to resurface if novel methods to keep accurate records, educate patients, and remind them to receive vaccinations are not employed. In the future, enforcing the use of mobile applications in the health care setting may not only augment in-person patient education, but also help to increase accurate immunization documentation strategies.
About the Author
Danielle McPherson is a 2019 PharmD candidate at the University of Connecticut.