Integrating Apps into Practice

by Steven Sturman, Charles Syms and Caitlin Beck - August 2018

Using Apps in Clinical Practice

Practicing with Apps Logo

Integrating apps into Clinical Practice has the potential to support the practitioner and client in a helping relationship.  When properly integrated into practice apps have the potential to:

  • Provide additional knowledge about issues clients may be facing
  • Support the client while outside of the clinical setting
  • Allow more accurate tracking of issues or symptoms the client faces between sessions
  • Support the practitioner in documenting work with the client

Apps that can be used in the clinical setting tend to be either clinician oriented or client oriented.

Clinician Orientated Apps

Clinician oriented apps are generally there to aid the clinicians in diagnosis or data acquisition.  They can also be used to help facilitate billing and client record keeping.  Some examples include apps that aid in ICD 10 or DSM-5 coding, apps that can be used to take HIPAA compliant notes during sessions, or track medical data and treatment progress. (Marley and Farooq, 2015) The data collected in the app can be used by the clinician to assess the effectiveness of interventions with individual clients or for an entire practice, so that the clinician can see how an intervention is working with a specific population.  (Novotney, 2016).

There are also apps that a clinician can use to look up information while they are in the field.  For instance, there are databases that a clinician could use to review possible side effects of prescriptions their clients may be taking.  There are mapping and data tools that a clinician could use to identify services for their clients within the local area.

Client Orientated Apps

There are also client orientated apps that clinicians can share with their clients to support the worker-client relationship.  Some of these are informative, providing information that the clinician may think would be helpful to the client.  Others allow clients to track their symptoms, conditions or activities, which can then be shared with the clinician.  Health and wellness apps can be used to track client eating habits, exercise habits, and other health information that may be relevant to their treatment.  This real time tracking can be more accurate and more efficient when brought into sessions with clients. (Getz, 2012)

Some apps can be used by clients to receive support when they are in crisis.  They can connect clients to crisis response numbers or contacts of emergency responders that they can reach out to.  Other apps, such as those that deal with anxiety or depression, may provide simple activities that the client can perform to help them manage symptoms.  Certain apps may also connect them with a community of people, so that they can share experiences.

Client Confidentiality and Privacy Issues

Using apps in a clinical setting can raise a host of ethical and privacy issues.  Before adopting a mobile app for use the practitioner must understand the types of data the app collects and what the app developer does with that data.  Many apps list their privacy and data usage policies on their websites or within their app store descriptions.  When dealing with sensitive and/or personal data the data must remain confidential, and if the data is to be used for research or public health purposes the data should be anonymized.  (Kotz, Gunter, Kumar & Weiner, 2016)

Before having clients download and use apps on their own devices the clinician and client must discuss the privacy implications of using apps within the therapeutic relationship, this is critically important if sensitive information will be stored in the app or mobile device.  This should include conversations about properly securing the phone with password protection so others cannot access the client’s information.  The clinician should also inquire if others use the device, such as spouses or partners or children, if they know the password and have access to the device they also may be able to access the clients data.

Using Apps in Macro Practice

There are a variety of apps that a practitioner could use in Macro Practice.  These apps would be beneficial whether you are working for non-profits promoting specific causes, rallying support for legislative changes, or trying to better connect with your constituencies.  These apps have the potential to:

  • Raise awareness for your cause or organization
  • Publicize events or outreach campaigns
  • Connect you with volunteers or donors that support your causes
  • Increase your productivity and help manage your organization and volunteers

There are a wide variety of apps that are generic in nature, such as scheduling and project coordination apps, which an agency could use to help manage day to day operations and specific events.  These apps can be used to plan out and designate tasks for coordinated campaigns so that you can easily track what is being accomplished and who has responsibility for each task that must be completed.  These campaigns can be shared with each team member or volunteer, so that everyone is kept abreast of the progress.

There are apps that can be used to connect you with people that can aid your mission.  Apps that help manage social media campaigns by prescheduling posts to your social media channels could be used to automate your outreach efforts and keep you connected with people you currently have relationships with.  You can also use apps to promote services and events that your organization provides or sponsors.  By getting your constituents to connect with you through an app, you have a direct means of reaching out to them.  You may also want to consider developing your own app to connect with your constituents.  This would give you a direct channel to them.

You can also use an app to grow your organization or expand upon the services you offer.  There are apps that will connect you directly to databases of volunteers who are looking for organizations or specific causes to become involved in.  These apps will allow you to pitch your organization to their database of users, and search for volunteers based upon their location and areas of interest.  There are also apps that you can use to connect with potential donors to help secure additional funding for your efforts.  Once you have made all these connections, there are even apps to help manage your growing network.

There are apps that Social Workers engaged in macro practice might employ to aid in legislative outreach, community organization, or social activism.  These apps can connect your constituents with their legislative representatives so they can more easily support legislation or programs that your organization advocates for.  There are other apps that will allow you to streamline outreach efforts by digitizing field surveys, thus allowing your organization to create more detailed surveys, track responses in real time, and streamline the data analysis process.


Getz, Lindsey (2012, May/June) Mobile App Technology for Social Workers.  Retrieved from February 8, 2018.

Kotz, D., Gunter, C. A., Kumar, S., & Weiner, J. P. (2016). Privacy and Security in Mobile Health: A Research Agenda. Computer49(6), 22–30.

Marley, Justin and Farooq, Saeed (2015, Dec) Mobile telephone apps in mental health practice: uses opportunities and challenges. BJPsych Bull.  39(6):  228-290.

McNiell, Paula and NcArthur, Erin (2015, June) What mobile apps are useful for your clinical practice? The Clinical Advisor.  Retrieved from June 5, 2018.