More clinicians are beginning to recognize the untapped potential of smartphones to assist them when providing cancer care. While there are many benefits of using smartphones, clinicians may be surprised by how these devices can sometimes alter patient-physician relationships.

A Help for Providers

The benefits of smartphones are profound for patients because these devices can provide greater access to physicians. In cancer care, clinicians can similarly benefit from smartphone use in many ways. “For example, certain hospital systems have developed methods for clinicians to remotely access medical records via smartphones and tablets. These systems may be particularly helpful when covering for colleagues or fielding calls from home,” says Justin F. Gainor, MD. “Patients can also take and send pictures to their providers to determine if they need to be seen should a visible abnormality develop.”


Smartphones can also serve as quick reference tools. With smartphone applications, physicians have quick and easy access to medical calculators, drug references, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines, and countless other helpful tools.

Exercise Caution

“Although smartphones have great potential for assisting cancer care, they can also interrupt conversations or limit the amount of time patients have with their physicians,” notes Dr. Gainor. Rarely, certain smartphone features, such as the ability to audio record a visit, can also alter the tone and dynamic of a patient encounter.

When caring for cancer patients who use smartphones as a resource, clinicians should educate them on the challenges that come with this type of use, according to Dr. Gainor. “It’s often difficult to know the source of information provided in applications or mobile websites,” he says. “Many developers are creating medical- and healthcare-related smartphone applications, increasing the potential for patients to obtain inaccurate, incomplete, or non-applicable information. Cancer care providers should be prepared to offer their patients a set of condition-specific resources so that they can ensure that their patients are obtaining reliable, useful healthcare information.” Taking extra precautions to know what organizations are developing the content for applications and websites is critical.

Be Open & Honest

“Being open and forthright with patients is paramount during face-to-face encounters,” Dr. Gainor explains, “and this rule doesn’t change when applied to smartphone use. Efforts should be made to work with patients who wish to use their smartphone to better manage their disease. In addition to enhancing the patient-physician relationship, it could also be a valuable tool for improving outcomes.”