Smartphone apps were once the domain of Angry Birds-obsessed kids but not any more. Hundreds of optometry and eye-care apps now litter the iTunes and Google app stores. It’s difficult to guess which ones you should download and which ones are duds.
Equipment enlisted tech-obsessed optometrist Andrew Hogan, who hosts the Nerdzilla program on ABC Hobart, to give us the lowdown on the best apps for optometrists today.
Although originally designed for ophthalmologists by the University of Missouri, Eye Handbook has become a staple of the eye-care app market, with over 600,000 installations worldwide. With a big bank of informative videos, slides shows and flash cards, the app also has forums, where eye-care practitioners can share and discuss diagnoses and solve rare eye disease cases posed by the website.
Love at first sight. Andrew says: ‘I love this app. The section I use the most is the ‘Eye Atlas,’ which is essentially pictures that I can use as a teaching aid with patients. The pictures are quick and simple; it’s all in alphabetical order and it is easier than pulling out a text book. If I can’t find a piece of equipment, in the testing module they’ve got an Amsler grid and a fluorescein light which works pretty well if you’re stuck somewhere without a UV light. The medication module is okay, except it is American, so some of the drugs that they have, we don’t have and vice versa. If I just want to quickly look up what concentration an eye-drop comes in or whether it’s okay to treat a certain condition, I find the app is quicker than trying to find a drug guide.’
Price: Free. Available on iTunes and the Google Play store
The iChart2000 app allows the user the flexibility to use it both in-practice and when doing home visits. It works on both iPhones and iPads. LogMAR and Snellen charts are displayed in a number of optotypes, such as tumbling E, with the capacity to be used for near testing at 40 centimetres and three metres for distance vision. There is a patient information section as well as a general toolkit for eye-care professionals. Other useful additions to iChart2000 are duochrome tests and multiple binocular vision tests, such as suppression and fixation disparity. The app also has built-in calculators for prescriptions and over-refraction.
Worth the price. Andrew says: ‘We use Thomson Charts in all of our consulting rooms. Thomson has the iChart2000 app which is very, very good and I’m pretty certain that as long as your devices are on the same wireless network, you can control the eye chart from your phone. This is great as one of the real issues when you’re doing a home visit is that you’ve got to walk over to the chart all the time, rather than stand next to the patient.
Price: $35.99. Available on iTunes
Another app with ophthalmological roots, EyeTube is the premium resource for videos about eye care with video sections dedicated to glaucoma, cataracts and the retina. EyeTube also hosts a number of lectures and talks with prominent figures in health care, marketing and business, as well as advice for improving patient relations and how to run a practice. The videos are regularly updated and good quality. EyeTube has recently dipped into the world of podcasts, with episodes of Ophthalmology Off The Grid, spanning everything from multifocals to cataract surgery.
A good video resource. Andrew says: ‘EyeTube is YouTube for eye videos. It supports advertising and the majority of it is videos of eye surgery, but it’s quite interesting just to be able to see what other people are doing. If a particular patient wants to actually see what the cataract procedure is going to be like, it’s useful for that. Also, if I’m giving a presentation to a community group and I want a quick video of something, I can pull it off EyeTube. You have to register on their website, but then you can watch as many videos as you like.’
Price: Free. Available on iTunes
Camera Awesome is not a dedicated optometry app but it can improve any optometric photographs you take on your smartphone or tablet. The app is simple but packed with features, allowing you to focus on a particular section of the photograph before you take the snap. Camera Awesome is also a photograph editor, with brightness and cropping easily achieved. Camera Awesome also allows you to share photos immediately via email or social media, making it a great all-rounder you can use in the office and out.
Only if you’re interested. Andrew says: ‘‘I do a little bit of slitlamp photography with my iPhone and rather than using the standard camera app, I use Camera Awesome. The app allows you to control exposure and your focusing a little bit better; however, since the launch of iOS 9, the Apple camera app is pretty good.
A lot of people aren’t aware that there are numerous camera apps that you can use on an iPhone; you don’t need to use the one that is built in. The advantage in using the iPhone for photography is that if you’ve got photo stream set up, the photo is instantly sent to your computer or iPad, so you can show patients immediately.’
Price: Free/$3.20. Available on iTunes and the Google Play Store
While note-taking apps aren’t new, Evernote has more than 150 million users and could make a strong case for being one of the best. Designed for note-taking, organising and archiving, the app thrives on simplicity and flexibility; notes can be enhanced by attached videos, audio and PDFs. Evernote also allows you to write and draw all over the page. The notes you take can be synced onto any device, and documents can be worked on collaboratively by many people at once. With the ability to scan documents and scribbles to digitise them, Evernote promises to organise your whole life.
Fantastic for research. Andrew says: ‘In practice, I’m a massive user of note software, and I use Evernote at the moment because it’s cross-platform. I’ve got it on my computer, because the Evernote website is effectively a cloud version of it, as well as my iPhone and my iPad. It’s fantastic when I’m clipping stuff for an article or a story. It’s also a better way of saving a website, because you can clip just the written article. I find it’s the best way to do research, so I use the app a lot.’
Price: Free/$29.00 and above for premium storage. Available on iTunes and the Google Play store
* While Evernote ensures that its servers are encrypted and access is protected, with any cloud-based document storage system, optometrists need to be mindful of privacy and security issues when sending a patient’s health information through a third-party cloud platform.
Optometrists need to ensure that transmitting patient information between providers aligns with the Australian Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988.