18 Eye Care Apps You Should Download Right Now

Apps on your cell phone make it drop-dead simple to order a pizza, call a taxi, check the weather, send a gift, and keep tabs on celeb news. It’s only natural, then, that apps are equally helpful when managing your eye practice.

“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, he notes, with the ability to put powerful analytics and budgeting tools literally in your hand. With more healthcare practice-focused apps appearing each month, this is a good time to take stock of the app market and find the digital tools that can make your day easier.

5 Ways Apps Can Improve Your Ophthalmology Practice

The number of medical apps aimed at healthcare professionals is rapidly increasing—there are currently hundreds of them. But how can you separate the useful from the useless? Read on for recommendations from tech-savvy ophthalmologists and optometrists to learn about the best apps that can benefit your eye care practice. These apps can truly offer advanced eye care solutions. What follows is a curated list of apps that save you time, help you market, and encourage better patient care and patient engagement.

References for Ophthalmology Management

“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 for ophthalmology is Eye Handbook. It’s a comprehensive, eye care-specific diagnostic and treatment reference, and it also allows users to download videos and lectures. It is free in the Apple and Android Google Play stores.

Eye Handbook is packed with features for practice management, especially  ophthalmology management, and 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. Optical Toolkit is currently priced at less than $8, and can be cheaper if you bundle it with other apps. Want to do a favor for 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. CPT QuickRef was developed by the American Medical Association and is the group’s only official mobile app.

Personal Efficiency

“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 no matter where you are. LogMeIn has a ton of tools for businesses of all sizes, with other options including secure password managers and trusted video conferencing tools.

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. XpenseTracker, for example, lets you not only track mileage and expenses but also exports all your totals and receipts to your desktop in an Excel-friendly format, and you can also include photo receipts.

Stay Current

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.

Papers is a tried-and-true option that helps users collect and curate research material. It includes a reference manager that is designed to improve how users find, organize, consume, cite, and share research. There are simple search functions as well as tools for reading, annotating, citing, and sharing. Corporate accounts are just $10 a month and there is a free 30-day trial period to help get you started.

For surgeons, Eyetube offers thousands of fully-narrated surgical videos, including subspecialties. It also includes symposia and roundtable discussions. It is available both as a standard website and as an app and is totally free.

Marketing

Apps put the power of marketing in the hands of everyone. With their user-friendly tools and powerful reach, anyone can launch a marketing campaign designed to reach hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people – and you may be able to do it for far less money than you suspect.

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. By curating an audience of fans on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you can speak directly to your customers. Use the apps to share news, staff photos, inspirational quotes, and more.

Bazan also adds QR codes to his practice’s business cards, magnets, and other practice swag. Patients then use a QR code reader app on their phones to scan the code and then get instantly directed to your website, an online appointment calendar, or even a landing page with a digital coupon. There are several apps—like Qrafter, which is designed for Apple users—that you can use to generate QR codes.

Patient Care

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, which is available for both Android and Apple and provides clinical recommendations, condition and disease breakdowns, symptom descriptions, and full-color illustrations.

Other apps focus on imaging. Smartphone cameras are consistently improving, and some even offer a resolution that can compete with your regular equipment. Fundus photography and slit-lamp photography are a few imaging types you can do on your smartphone. Slit-lamp adapters like the tool from Marco transform your smartphone into a clinical tool, and you can use powerful free apps like ProCamera to enhance your images.

Patient Engagement

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 your 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 Eye Handbook, mentioned earlier in this blog, features a patient education module that 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. Use it with your practice management and ophthalmology management software – you will find that many topics include 3D images, which you can annotate by hand. Plus, you can print handouts for your patients from your wireless printer. In all, there are more than 100 videos to choose from, and they can be customized with your practice’s logo and played on any device.

Do you frequently engage with patients who are not fluent in English? Translation apps like Google Translate can help you communicate with non-English-speaking patients or their family members – it is amazingly accurate and can support translations in more than 100 languages.

Remember – apps can work for your patients, too. Patients can use apps to gauge their eye health 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.

Apps are emerging as powerful tools for practices of all sizes, with free and affordable tools you can put on a tablet or smart phone that will help you save time and improve care. With so many quality apps to choose from, options are better than ever.

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