With a predicted seven billion mobile smartphone owners worldwide by the end of 2014 (according to International Telecommunication Union figures from May 2014) and increasing numbers of applications downloaded on a daily basis to both the iOS and Android operating systems (OS), statistics suggest that the number of mobile applications (apps) available has already exceeded one million for each OS. Andy Phillips explains how occupational health (OH) practitioners can take advantage of them.
Due to their ease of use and accessibility, smartphones and tablets are with us most of our working days. This provides the OH practitioner with the opportunity to access a vast array of apps to support and enhance their practice. Not only can these apps provide the user with clinical information, as discussed in our article “Apps for health professionals” (Occupational Health, April 2014) but also with the opportunity to help you keep on track at work and to get more done. According to a study by technology firm CDW, healthcare professionals could gain as much as 1.2 hours in productivity every day with the use of tablet computers. Here are some possible app options for OH practitioners.
Dropbox – Free limited storage (all available on iOS and Android)
Dropbox is one of the most common of the many examples of cloud storage available on smartphones and tablets.
Cloud storage provides the user with the ability to back up and store information on a virtual hard drive on the internet. These services provide the user with generous amounts of free storage. For example, a basic Dropbox cloud will provide 2GB of storage which (depending upon the file size) is the equivalent of around 600 eight megapixel photographs or approximately 100,000 one-page Word documents.
These hard drives are often encrypted, which means that there are many layers of security coding to scramble the stored information to enable only those with authorised access to obtain the information, thus discouraging unauthorised access from other computer users.
These are often online services that allow the user to gain access to the saved files, or information from any computer or mobile device anywhere in the world. All you need to access these files is an internet connection or mobile connection such as that available through your smartphone or tablet.
Dropbox is available as a computer application that is available for free download from: www.dropbox.com. Following registration, the Dropbox application will allow the user to synchronise and upload files onto this server from areas of your computer. You can then access the uploaded files from your smartphone or tablet device by downloading the smartphone app and, after using the same login details as your registered computer account, the user will have access to the storage and files uploaded from the computer.
An important caveat to consider with regards to the use of cloud storage on Dropbox is that you must be careful with regards to the type of documents you store within these services for a couple of reasons. First, while the chances of file loss and breaches of security are low, these risks do exist. Second, Dropbox servers (where your data is actually being stored) are provided by a managed service provider located in the US, so when saving information on Dropbox on your UK-based phone this information is actually stored there.
Data protection legislation in the US differs from that of the UK and, as such, it is advisable and safer to keep sensitive employee data away from these services without first researching the nuances within both data protection legislations.
Other similar apps include: Google Drive, Box.net and Knowhow (all are available for both iOS and Android).
CamScanner (free on Android and iOS, paid versions also available)
This highly acclaimed app is the world’s number-one document scanning app. It was also voted as one of the 50 best iPhone apps for 2013 by TIME Magazine and was rated as “outstanding” by the editor of CNET. This app turns your smartphone or tablet into a fully functioning scanner or fax machine able to copy and store hard copies of, for example: receipts, contracts, whiteboard presentations, notes, sketches or business cards in an electronic PDF format.
Glossary of terms
This software, developed by Apple, is the operating system found on its own-brand mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad. It has been extended to support other Apple devices such as iPod Touch and iPad Mini. Apps can be downloaded from the app section of the App Store, which is available on each mobile device or through iTunes.
This is the operating system that has been developed by Google, which is used on many mobile phones including the Samsung Galaxy, LG, Sony Xperia and Nexus, as well as branded tablets from Samsung, Nexus and Sony. Apps can be downloaded from the app section of Google Play, or the “Play Store” app on a mobile device.
Following download and registration, the app offers the opportunity to “upgrade” for a fee, but it is also fully functional using the free version.
CamScanner uses the camera from your mobile device to scan the information that the user wishes to store. To scan an item, select the camera icon at the bottom of the document page then take the picture using the camera function on your mobile device. CamScanner will allow you to resize the scanned document, dragging the frame to the desired location. After doing this, the document will be neatly cropped, image enhanced and turned into a PDF which the user can then store on their mobile device, or they can email or upload the document onto cloud storage.
The app also runs OCR (optical character recognition) which allows the user to search for terms found within the scanned document, should the user require a facility to rapidly access files in the future.
Other similar apps include: Scan to PDF free, Evernote, Google Drive and Turboscan (all these apps are available for both iOS and Android).
Evernote (free on iOS and Android, some paid aspects)
This award-winning mobile app claims to turn your mobile device into an extension of your brain.
Evernote is a notetaking app with extra bells and whistles that also allows the user to take pictures, store emails, dictate voice notes, set reminders, create to-do lists, make hand-written notes, search for text within images and share ideas. Put simply, this app can help the user to not only keep notes, but to organise, store and prioritise any information that they wish.
To use Evernote, following registration, the user is given the option to set up separate folders to organise notes, under headings like “work” or “home”. They are then taken to a set-up screen that presents a number of options: new written note; picture note (similar to CamScanner); audio note; and add a recently downloaded (or created) document. The user will select the type of note that is required and, after the note has been inputted, it is saved on Evernote’s cloud storage.
Why use Evernote in comparison to traditional pen and paper? Lewis (2012) recommends that Evernote is superior in the following ways:
- Notes can be searched using the inbuilt search function or the robust tag mechanism.
- There is no danger of losing notes as they are stored offsite in the cloud.
- They can be edited retrospectively and constantly updated.
- It is easy to include a range of media including photos, mind maps, videos and more.
- Notes can be easily shared with other people.
- It can be integrated with study card apps to turn prose notes into quick flash cards to test oneself.
The author of this article can envisage a number of uses for this mobile device app, especially to alleviate stress for those OH practitioners who have lots of tasks to remember or somewhere to store those business cards received during meetings. Furthermore, it could also provide a useful tool for employees presenting with workload, control or demand-related stressors.
Evernote also has the capability for apps to integrate “notes” within the app. For example, PDFs converted within the CamScanner app, can be shared to Evernote as either tasks to be completed or notes that the user can retrieve from one place. Notes can also be made using sound clips which could be useful during conferences; for example, if you wish to fully document a particularly interesting segment on the management of work-related upper-limb disorders, Evernote could provide you with the ability to do so.
Evernote can also synchronise seamlessly with the user’s personal computer, following download of the Evernote PC application. This is done using more cloud storage; one criticism of the free version of the mobile device app is that the user must be connected to the internet to access the information on the cloud. However, the paid-for version of the app means the user does not require a connection to the internet all of the time for access to the notes as well as also allowing other people to share access to your notes.
Other similar apps include: Microsoft OneNote and Google Keep (both available for iOS and Android).
Wunderlist (Free – iOS and Android)
Wunderlist is a simple, yet easy-to-use list application for mobile devices that helps the user to capture ideas, tasks to be completed, or simply add to their shopping list.
Wunderlist has been featured and has received praise from a number of reputable reviewing sources. Understandably, due to their similarity, there have been many comparisons between Evernote and Wunderlist.
Evernote has the ability to generate task lists and saved events, as well as the capacity to store photographs, scans and save links to websites. Wunderlist provides a simple way of providing the user with the task lists. Both apps provide reminder notifications when tasks are due and both can sync with the user’s other mobile devices and desktop computer. Wunderlist is also said to be available with “Android Wear”: a wearable electronic device that is usually located on the user’s wrist (similar to an electronic watch), that allows the user to receive notifications and to-do lists while on the move.
To use Wunderlist, following registration the user can select the folder for the tasks to be assigned to, then tasks can be added using the “add an item” button. Further options are provided to add a date and time for project deadlines as well as the option to share the completed task list with other contacts within the user’s mobile device contact folder.
Pocket – formerly Read it Later (free on iOS and Android)
Pocket enables the mobile-device user to save information that is based on the internet and make it available to read at a later time. Pocket also enables the user to store and review YouTube videos at a later date, in addition to internet pages.
To use the app, after installation and registration, the user can start to add content to the Pocket account by downloading a web page on the mobile web browser, initiating the browser menu and after pressing the “share” option, selecting the “add to pocket” option. This will then share whatever page you have open in your mobile device web browser to Pocket.
Why use this app? Because it makes it possible for the mobile user to save their downloaded internet pages as favourites on the browser of their mobile phone. However, this type of page storage can be quite unwieldy and there is little organisation of the stored pages. Pocket allows these pages to be stored in an easy-to-view and accessible way.
Other similar apps include: Evernote (iOS and Android).
Pocketcloud Remote Desktop Pro (£9.35 Android and £10.49 iOS)
Last, but by no means least, this extraordinary app (for the money) provides the user with a secure and fast way to remotely connect to and access a computer desktop at another location, such as at home. Both Windows PC and Mac computers can be accessed. However, the author suggests that before downloading this application for workplace computers, the user engages in a discussion with their IT provider as it is likely that many corporate IT services would not allow access to the user’s workplace computer with an application such as this.
The author has no financial interest in any of the apps discussed within this article. Due to the availability of mobile hardware at the time of testing, this article focuses on those available on the Apple iOS and Android operating systems. No BlackBerry device was available at the time of testing.
Please check with your mobile operator with regards to the necessary data connection allowance before using these mobile applications.
To gain access to a computer desktop, the user can either use automatic discovery, or manual setup. The user will also have to install the Pocketcloud companion application onto the computer to be accessed. After synchronising the information on both your mobile telephone and the computer (including the computer username and password if used), the computer desktop is projected onto the user’s mobile device with the added ability to activate Outlook, use files, or open any of the other features on the desktop.
This app has been rated as “excellent” in a review by PC magazine. If the user is able to cope with the size of the typeface on a small mobile phone screen or tablet device, this provides a quick and easy way to access their home computer desktop. To avoid the cost of data connection, it may be worth considering using this app with wi-fi and not the data connection through the mobile device.
Similar app: LogMeIn (available for iOS and Android).
Lewis Dolan, P . Physicians tell how much time tablets save them American Medical News, 7 January 2013.
Lewis, T (2012). “How medical professionals can use Evernote and mobile devices to improve productivity and learning”, available at iMedicalApps: www.imedicalapps.com/2012/06/medical-professionals-evernote-appproductivity-learning-mobile/. Accessed 10.08.2014