Most Americans rely on their smartphones for assistance with nearly all aspects of their lives, including paying bills, finding the quickest route for a road trip and connecting with family and friends.
Smartphones are increasingly proving themselves to be useful in the workplace, too. About three-quarters of physicians use smartphones to communicate with other physicians at least weekly and roughly 70% use smartphones to research medications at least weekly, according to a 2013 AmericanEHR Partners report.
Medical apps allow physicians to quickly and easily research information while treating patients, says Jonathan Vitale, DO, a family physician in Chicago.
“My iPhone is now as integral to my practice of medicine as my stethoscope,” says Dr. Vitale. “I use medical apps for everything from checking the dosage of a medication to calculating a patient’s risk for a cardiovascular event.
“My patients say it comforts them that I am making sure they are treated with the most up-to-date information.”
As an orthopedic surgery resident, Adam Bitterman, DO, of Jericho, New York, spends most of his day in the operating room for extended periods of time without access to his phone. But when he does have his phone, he turns to medical apps for surgical implant technique guides and other information about his specialty.
“My go-to apps are orthopedic knowledge publications, anatomy apps and apps providing updates on orthopedic and general medicine,” says Dr. Bitterman.
In addition to providing patient information, apps can help physicians with the business side of medicine.
“Most of the apps I use on a daily basis are for point-of-care clinical knowledge, coding and document storage,” says Stephen Daquino, DO, a family physician in San Diego. “Box, for instance, is a HIPAA-compliant mobile platform that enables files to be emailed or texted to patients right from the app.”
See the list below for popular medical apps to add to your virtual black bag. All apps are available on IOS and Android unless otherwise noted. See any missing from the list? Be sure to share the physician apps you use in the comments below.
Described by Dr. Bitterman as “a must-have app for everyone in the medical field,” Epocrates serves as a medical resource for medications, including dosages, pharmacology and pill identification. The basic features of the app are free and for a fee physicians can access premium content, such as billing and diagnosis codes. The app also has a feature where physicians can show pictures of medications to their patients.
Dr. Vitale uses the app to check dosing, side effects, prices and interactions of medications. “I use this app almost every time I prescribe a medication,” he says. “Even if I am very familiar with a medication, I still use Epocrates to double-check and look for updates.”
UpToDate, which is free for up to two devices, provides the latest synthesized, evidence-based medical recommendations. Users can upgrade their subscription for a faster mobile service. “UpToDate is an invaluable resource when treating both routine and rare medical conditions,” Dr. Vitale says. “It provides information in a very clear and easily searchable interface.”
Jennifer Caudle, DO, a family physician in Philadelphia, uses FRAX to calculate a patient’s 10-year probability of an osteoporotic fracture. Created by the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the app (see link for fee) uses the World Health Organization Fracture Risk Assessment Tool.
ASCVD Risk Estimator
This free app calculates a patient’s 10-year and lifetime risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). Created by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, ASCVD Risk Estimator is based on the 2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk. The app also provides guidelines for therapy, monitoring and lifestyle.
“I use this app every time I review a lipid profile with a patient,” Dr. Vitale says. “It breaks down a very complicated formula so that one just needs to enter basic information about the patient and their lipid panel, and it calculates their ASCVD Risk score automatically. This guides me on whether a statin medication would benefit the patient.”
AO Surgery Reference
This free app offers the resources an orthopedic surgeon needs to manage patients’ care from diagnosis to after surgery.
“AO Surgery Reference provides a tremendous amount of information ranging from boney anatomy and fracture classification to decision-making and operative techniques and management,” says Dr. Bitterman. “This is an excellent resource for medical students, residents, physicians and nursing staff involved with the care of the orthopedic patient.”
The Figure 1 app is an online community for health care professionals who wish to expand or share their medical knowledge. Peruse user-submitted clinical images or upload your own—but make sure to remove any identifying details first.
“Think of this free app as the ‘Instagram for Doctors,'” says Dr. Vitale. “You are able to upload photos of rashes or other medical conditions from real-life patient encounters. The photos are then used to teach others and get insight from other doctors.”
Medical journal apps
These apps provide the latest content published in medical journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine. (NEJM apps are only available on IOS.)
Medical organization apps
Dr. Caudle says medical sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offer a wealth of health care information that can be accessed quickly.