BOSTON—Tired of carrying around stacks of quick reference guides, charts, and reminders? So was Esther K. Choo, MD, MPH, associate professor in Department of Emergency Medicine at the Alpert Medical School/Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, before she ditched it all for a phone and a batch of applications.
“When I was an intern, my white coat weighed 10 pounds! With the apps, I just carry my stethoscope, a pen and my phone,” she said.
Among the thousands of available medical apps, Dr. Choo recommended a dozen or so for the busy emergency medical physician. Her criteria included affordability, compatibility with both Android and Apple phones, ease of use, and compelling features.
“These are apps I use daily or at least weekly in my clinical practice,” she said. She emphasized that she has no connection to any of the companies that sell the apps she discussed.
One of her favorites is Micromedex, a comprehensive drug database.
“It’s so integral to my practice,” Dr. Choo said. “If there is one app that is indispensable to me, it’s Micromedex.” The app is remarkably reliable and features adult and pediatric dosing. She said she likes that the content is frequently uploaded. At $2.99 per year, it’s affordable and is compatible with both Apple and Android phones.
Dr. Choo said PressorDex, from the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association, is a bit more complicated to use, but is helpful for managing the care of critical patients. She can log in a patient, add his or her height, weight and medications, and the application automatically calculates dosages. She said it’s helpful with exceptionally sick patients she is seeing over the course of a shift. The price is $16.99. It’s compatible with both Apple and Android phones, but has a few bugs that could be addressed if the app were updated more often.
VisualDx is a comprehensive database of physical findings, especially rashes, that was developed by a dermatologist. It includes diagnostic pearls, an extensive image library and a feature called the Differential Builder. A continuing medical education (CME) component allows the user to review common and uncommon rashes and even play a game against others. “This is very addictive,” Dr. Choo said. At $240 per year, she admits that the price could be prohibitive, but it fills a special niche. “We all fear the rash,” she said.
Dr. Choo said that everyone should have a pediatric app. She recommends Pedi STAT. She notes that the app designers recognize the stressfulness of pediatric emergencies and offer step-by-step instructions, plus specific details such as endotracheal tube and laryngoscope size recommendations. “It’s designed for the situations in which you really need it—you can find info in just a few clicks,” she said. At $2.99 the app is inexpensive too.
“This is a pretty nerdy one,” Dr. Choo said of Neuro Toolkit. Written by a vascular neurologist, it features classic neurological scales and algorithms. Special features include a switch for the phone’s flashlight and a button to turn your phone into a tuning fork. “The phone buzzes at 180 hertz,” she said. The app costs $2.99, but it’s only available for Apple devices.
Canopy is a translation app, funded by the National Institute of Health that offers basic medical questions in 18 languages. Select the question in English and it will display the text or speak the phrase in the language selected. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate the patient’s answer,” Dr. Choo said. However, the questions are geared for point-and-show responses. Often-used questions can be bookmarked. Medical interpreters can be called with one click from the app. “It helps you make decisions without waiting and waiting for the translator,” she said. It’s also helpful for obtaining update information after the translator is no longer available. The app is free and is compatible with both types of phones. “There’s zero reason not to have this app,” she said.
Watch Dr. Choo discuss her talk in the ACEP15 Daily News Day Two video
Ever wanted to use a picture to explain a concept to a patient, but you’re not that good at drawing? The Med Sketch app is for you. Choose from a number of drawings of the human anatomy then select a pen to circle, highlight or emphasize an area. Once you have reviewed the picture with the patient, it can be emailed to him or her. “It is so key to patient satisfaction,” Dr. Choo said. “Every physician should have it in their tool kit.” Med Sketch is only available for Apple products. The cost is $2.99.
In addition to the apps, Dr. Choo recommended one device, D-Eye, a portable ophthalmoscope that attaches to her phone. Images can be stored and sent through the hospital’s Epic system for a consult. The device sells for $445. “It’s a complete game changer, but it’s certainly an investment,” she said. It’s currently offered for Apple and Samsung phones, although the company is phasing out the Samsung product.
If you are just getting started using applications, Dr. Choo suggests starting with just two applications then really learn them. She’s pretty sure that it won’t be too long before you also find them indispensable for your practice, too.