AT ACOG 2015

San Francisco (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – A review of 160 mobile applications yielded only a small number with comprehensive and medically accurate birth control information, but these apps could be a useful resource for patients, according to Angel Robinson.

Of the apps reviewed, 16 were targeted toward health care providers and 144 were targeted toward patients. Only 20 of the 144 had comprehensive information about multiple birth control methods, Ms. Robinson, a third-year medical student at the University of California, Los Angeles, reported in a poster at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

She and her colleagues featured a few of the better quality apps in their poster, including:

Mayo Clinic About Birth Control: Options for You (cost: $1.99)

Plan A Birth Control (free)

Pregnancy prevention, birth control techniques ($0.99)

My Sex Doctor Plus ($0.99)

Sexual Health Guide (free)

These apps provide information about the various types of birth control available, as well as information about selecting the most appropriate method, Ms. Robinson said. Interactive features allow consumers to input personal health and other information to identify the best options.

Given that 90% of Americans use mobile phones, 58% have a smartphone, and half of those smartphone owners have used their phones to download apps, it follows that health-related apps could have broad appeal and utility; this may be particularly true for younger patients who are tech savvy and comfortable using apps, Ms. Robinson said.

Apps are also an attractive patient resource because they eliminate barriers that can interfere with communication of sexual and reproductive health information, but studies regarding the accuracy of the content of apps related to contraception and family planning have been lacking, she said.

For this study, Ms. Robinson and her colleagues searched the iOS mobile platform using numerous key words related to contraception and family planning between June and July of 2014. Several themes that emerged among the 144 patient-targeted apps were cycle tracking (40 apps), birth control reminders (26 apps), games (16 apps), family planning locators (22 apps), and sexual health information (40 apps).

“Mobile applications may be a powerful untapped patient information and referral resource,” Ms. Robinson and her colleagues wrote. “While mobile applications are an increasingly utilized means of accessing health and medical information, accurate and comprehensive information about contraception and family planning is not easily available for women who seek it through such applications.”

The quality apps that are available, however, could prove to be a useful adjunct to clinical care, she said, adding that additional studies are needed to identify the usefulness of such applications for that purpose.

The investigators reported having no financial disclosures.