Mobile apps offer many benefits to busy urologists

November 13, 2013

With such an overwhelming number of choices, it can be daunting to find apps that have practical use for urologists or their patients, and also work well. In this article, I provide some direction and references to help you find the right app for your purpose.

Whether you embrace, resent, or harbor mixed emotions about the adoption of information technology in your practice, physicians and patients now have a number of tools at their disposal for data collection, education, documentation, and even improving health. Technology in general has become highly portable and mobile, and spawned the widespread adoption of mobile applications. According to a May 2013 press release from Apple, “Customers are downloading more than 800 apps per second at a rate of over 2 billion apps per month” from the Apple App Store alone.

With such an overwhelming number of choices, it can be daunting to find apps that have practical use for urologists or their patients, and also work well. In this article, I will provide some direction and references to help you find the right app for your purpose.

Where to find apps, reviews

If you already use mobile technology, a good place to start is your platform’s app store. Searching the Apple App Store, for example, with the keyword “urology” returns about 60 apps, most of which are free. Clicking on any app will allow you to quickly view a description, read reviews and ratings, and link out directly to similar apps. It took me about 15 minutes to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The website UrologyMatch posts reviews of urology apps for mobile devices (www.urologymatch.com/app_reviews). When I accessed this in October 2013, I found about 20 apps reviewed, with the most recent posting from December 2012.

There are other websites I would recommend when you are shopping for urology apps. One of the most comprehensive compilations of apps for the practicing physician is by Epocrates (now owned by athenahealth, www.epocrates.com/mobile). Applications available free of charge or by subscription include drug databases, dermatology atlases, CME apps, National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for prostate cancer, medical Spanish apps, and more. The apps are available for iOS or Android platforms. Drugs.com also has some inexpensive apps related to medications and drug references (www.drugs.com/apps/). The AUA also maintains a virtual app store where you can find links to apps for publications, AUA guidelines, member directories, and more (www.auanet.org/education/app-store.cfm).

Finally, two resources offer helpful information on apps designed for patients. Urology Times sister publication Medical Economics recently published an article about the top 10 apps that physicians recommend to their patients; while this piece is oriented to the primary care physician, watch for specialty-related articles on the subject (www.urologytimes.com/MEtop10apps). “Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare” from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics is an in-depth report about the role of consumer apps in disease prevention and treatment that includes lists of top-rated apps (downloadable at www.urologytimes.com/toppatientapps).

Some apps benefit physicians and patients

There are a few apps that deserve special attention because they solve everyday problems for urologists and their patients, and may even save time and money. Maintaining an accurate medication list is a common challenge, especially when patients receive a prescription from another physician but are unable to remember the drug’s name. An app that has been getting some attention to solve this problem is ID My Pill (www.idmypill.com/). The app leverages the use of the built-in phone camera to take a picture of the pill and instantly identify it; designed primarily for patients, I see an important use for this in the office as well. There are other apps without the camera feature that can help identify a pill (eg, www.drugs.com).

Another very popular app is drawMD Urology (www.drawmd.com). This app allows physicians to draw on an image for patient education, then save, e-mail, or even export the image (see related article). There are over 30 mobile “charge capture” apps in the Apple App Store, many of which are free but have no reviews. If your EHR or practice management software vendor does not have an affordable solution, you may wish to try out an app and do away with those index cards to avoid missed hospital charges.

Bottom line: We simply don’t have time to keep on top of the rush of information technology and all the applications of its use. Most of us carry a smartphone or tablet because we have grown dependent on its functions and easy user interface. Adding a few simple apps to those devices can return time, money, and even satisfaction on our busy days. Use some of the tools provided here to do your own shopping, and check out the app for Urology Times at www.urologytimes.com/UTapp.UT

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