The use of mobile health technologies in ophthalmology has increased tremendously since the release of smartphones and tablets, with new developments allowing for greater efficiency and communication between physicians and patients.
In June 2011, there were more wireless devices in the United States than people, and more than 73% of physicians owned a smartphone — a 22% increase from 2008. This was anticipated to reach 81% by the end of 2012, according to estimates from the Manhattan Research Group.
Since Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, smartphone and tablet prices have steadily decreased, with other manufacturers emerging and more mobile carriers offering cheaper data plans to support these devices. Once considered specialist items, smartphones and tablets are becoming essential tools for many health care providers.
According to William B. Trattler, MD, OSN Healio.com/Ophthalmology Board Member, mobile technology allows him to quickly and efficiently communicate with not only his patients, but also the staff members within his office.
William B. Trattler, MD, looks forward to the efficiency that mobile devices can bring to patient scheduling and staff interaction.
Image: Trattler WB
“We use text messaging within our office with our employees,” he said. “For example, if I’m in the surgery center or at an off-site location, the quickest way to communicate with my staff is to use text messaging. So, we’re using simple phone technology in that way also.”
Mobile connection to ophthalmologists
Ease of access and unprecedented versatility assure that smartphones and tablets are not a passing fad.
“Pre-2005, there were few smartphones,” Orrin I. Franko, MD, lead app editor for Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine, said. “Now, we see practically ubiquitous adoption of what is essentially a mobile computer that is unbelievably versatile in terms of memory, wireless Internet access, high-resolution color screens and camera capabilities. It basically has every tool you can imagine and fits in your pocket.”
Orrin I. Franko
In his office, Trattler uses Eyemaginations LUMA, which is a software program that allows physicians to “create educational presentations for your patients from a robust library of HD quality animations featuring split-screen views to show condition development and point-of-view perspectives,” according to Eyemaginations’ website.
“The animated program and short videos help me explain conditions to patients and answer questions they may have — for example, ‘What are narrow angles? What is a cataract? How does cataract surgery work?’” Trattler said.
Uday Devgan, MD, OSN Healio.com/Ophthalmology Section Editor, also uses mobile technology in his office to explain conditions and treatment regimens to his patients.
“I show patients pictures of their eyes, their retinas and their test results on a flat-screen monitor,” he said. “This helps me to explain the relevant findings to them.”
Trattler said his office is working on a more efficient way for patients to schedule appointments online, as well as to receive messages from his office on their own mobile devices.
To create a more efficient way for his patients to contact him with questions regarding their surgery, Trattler also provides his cell phone number to some surgery patients, as well as corneal cross-linking patients.
HIPAA and DICOM integrated technologies
In 2010, Jeff Tangney, CEO of Doximity, launched an online mobile technology.
“With Doximity, physicians can use their iPhone, iPad, Android device or computer to quickly connect with any U.S. physician to collaborate on patient treatment or identify the appropriate expert for patient referrals,” according to its website.
The key component of Doximity is its compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
According to Tangney, Doximity is an electronic platform that allows for physician-to-physician messaging, faxing and discussion of clinical cases in a HIPAA-secure environment that protects patient confidentiality.