There really is an app for everything. You’re probably used to using a variety of mobile apps in your personal life, but what about at your eye care practice? “Most ECPs have yet to see the value,” reports Justin Bazan, OD, owner of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn, NY and presenter at SECO 2018. “Most ECPs have yet to figure out how to actually implement [apps],” he continues.
“Medical apps are a burgeoning market with new material every day,” says Robert Chang, MD, who, along with a panel of experts, taught ophthalmologists to use their phones and tablets in new ways at AAO 2017. Smartphones and tablets are essentially small computers. They’re powerful, and you can harness some of that power to make your day easier.
5 Ways Apps Can Improve Your Practice
The number of medical apps aimed at healthcare professionals is rapidly increasing—there are currently over 300 of them. But how can you separate the useful from the useless? Read on for recommendations from tech-savvy ophthalmologists and optometrists.
“Having resources at our fingertips can eliminate the search for reference and educational material while expediting and improving patient care,” says Rohit Krishna, MD, one of the AAO panelists. One of his favorite apps is Eye Handbook. It’s a comprehensive, eye care-specific diagnostic and treatment reference, and it also allows users to download videos and lectures.
Eye Handbook includes several ophthalmic calculators, but if you don’t need the sheer breadth of information it offers, check out Optical Toolkit. Users gain access to three calculator apps: GlaucomaCalc, LensCalc, and OptiCalc. And don’t forget your billers and coders. If they don’t relish flipping through those mammoth code books, there are several ICD-10 and CPT code reference apps to choose from. The AAO experts recommend STAT ICD-10 and CPT E/M QuickRef.
“Keeping track of appointments, current news, finances, and managing travel arrangements are all realistic requirements for modern ophthalmologists,” says Ken Lord, MD, one of the AAO panelists. There are thousands of apps designed to help you maximize every area of your personal and professional lives. Some of the most useful for busy physicians are remote desktop applications, like LogMeIn. You get secure access to your computers from your iPad or iPhone, and that helps you accomplish more, from anywhere.
Many physicians and staff members attend at least one industry conference each year. If that’s you, be sure to download the official conference app, if one is available. You can organize your course schedule, set up alerts for special events, download handouts, and network with other attendees. If you’re really interested in a certain speaker, you can quickly determine what courses they’re teaching, and even peruse local attractions.
Whether you’re traveling to a far-off symposium or driving back and forth to multiple practice locations, you’ll likely be reimbursed for your work-related expenses. Ensure you receive every penny you’re owed with a receipt-tracking app (like XpenseTracker or Shoeboxed). These and other similar apps help you cut down on the clutter by scanning your receipts right away, along with categorizing them and totaling the amounts.
Want to stay updated with the latest in vision research? Most eye care providers do, but it’s not always easy to find spare time to peruse your favorite publications. Most journals have their own apps, but to save room on your home screen, try consolidating. “For the ophthalmologist with a keen interest in vision research, but time constraints, these vision research apps provide excellent access to the most current ophthalmic studies,” says Ilya M. Sluch, MD, who also sat on the AAO panel.
To keep up with current research and clinical trials, Sluch favors Docphin. The app allows you to follow your favorite pubs, search PubMed, and even create personalized alerts for the topics you’re most interested in. Papers 3 is another tried-and-true option.
For surgeons, Eyetube offers thousands of fully-narrated surgical videos, including subspecialties. It also includes symposia and roundtable discussions.
The most obvious way to use smartphone apps for marketing your practice is through social media. In addition to keeping your practice’s profile updated and regularly posting new, audience-targeted content, Bazan recommends using social media apps to advertise current promotions and last minute appointment openings.
Bazan also adds QR codes to his practice’s business cards, magnets, and other practice swag. What’s a QR code? In short, it’s a type of barcode that stores information. Patients can use a QR code reader app to scan the code. The code might direct them to your website’s contact page, allow them to make an appointment online, or offer them a special message or discount. There are several apps—like Qrafter—that you can use to generate QR codes.
While your electronic health record system likely has its own app, there are other ways to use apps to support or enhance patient care. Apps like Epocrates serve as a drug reference (you can identify pills by their imprint and check for interactions) and more. “Having information like new clinical drug references at your fingertips is key to keeping up with new changes,” notes Chang. Epocrates (one of Chang’s recommended apps) also lets you access drug coverage information for selected national and regional payers, identify providers for consults, and features HIPAA-compliant text messaging. Chang also likes the eye care-specific Wills Eye Manual.
Other apps focus on imaging. Smartphone cameras are consistently improving, and some even offer a resolution that can compete with your regular equipment. Fundus photograpy and slit lamp photography are a few imaging types you can do on your smartphone. Slit lamp adapters like Tiger Lens transform your smartphone into a clinical tool, and you can use apps like ProCamera to enhance your images.
Engaged and educated patients are an essential part of your success as value-based reimbursement takes flight. The right apps can aid in compliance, quality outcomes, and patients’ perception of value. “The modern ophthalmologist can use patient education tools, which are becoming more available on the iPhone and other smartphones as a resource for our savvy patients,” explains Vinay Shah, MD, another AAO panelist.
The previously mentioned Eye Handbook features a patient education module. It allows you to extract information and email it directly to your patients. Another favorite is Sight Selector, a subscription service that helps you explain and demonstrate conditions and treatments to your patients. Many topics include 3D images, which you can annotate by hand. Plus, you can print handouts for your patients from your wireless printer. Translation apps like Google Translate can help you communicate with non-English-speaking patients or their family members.
Patients can take advantage of their own smartphones to participate in their care away from the doctor’s office. One example is MaculaTester. It functions as a digital Amsler Grid, allowing patients to test themselves at home in between exams. That way, they can detect and address changes in their condition sooner than their next scheduled eye exam.