• Practice Perfect

    Practice Management Apps for Ophthalmology: How to Get Started

    Written By: Leslie Burling, Contributing Writer, interviewing Howie Chen, MD, Ken Lord, MD, and Vinay A. Shah, MD

    Download PDF

    Everyone is pressed for time. Fortunately, becoming more efficient while saving money can be accomplished with the use of mobile apps, said Vinay A. Shah, MD, at Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City. He estimates that he has saved an hour per day since incorporating apps into his routine. “Solely considering my use of airline and frequent flier apps, monitoring investments, and accessing email, I save a tremendous amount of time.”

    Apps in practice. Just as apps provide utility in your personal life, they can help manage your practice. The benefits are myriad, running the gamut from basic business functions to education and finding patients the least expensive medications.

    Not app savvy? For those who hav­en’t used apps, it can be reassuring to know that finding and purchasing these apps is relatively easy and inexpensive.

    AAO Mobile App

    The Academy’s AAO Ophthalmic Education App features content from EyeWiki and three areas of the ONE Network: News, 1-Minute Videos, Diagnose This, and, coming later this year, Wills Eye Manual. Customize your feed based on your area(s) of interest to view content and receive alerts when relevant content is pub­lished.

    For more information, go to aao.org/education-app.

    Getting Started

    Plenty to choose from. “Anything and everything you can imagine is available as an app,” said Dr. Shah. Indeed, if you don’t stay focused, “it is easy to get distracted by all the extraneous infor­mation.”

    Where to find them. Apple’s App Store remains a comprehensive re­source. Access it at https://apps.apple.com/us/genre/ios/id36. Google Play also offers a wide variety of apps at https://play.google.com/store/apps.

    Read the reviews. “I use Google to search for reviews of apps and try out those that appear to be a good fit,” said Howard Chen MD, a solo practitioner in Goodyear, Arizona.

    Typically, apps come at little or no cost. “I spend mere pennies for most of the apps that I use, and their utility far outweighs the cost,” said Ken Lord, MD, who practices in St. George, Utah.

    How many apps on your phone? Not so long ago, phones had limited storage, and underutilized apps had to be deleted to make space for other tasks. Because cellphones now come with copious amounts of memory and everything can be backed up to the cloud, storage is not an issue, said Dr. Shah. “I regularly use 25 to 30 apps, but at one time, I counted 100+ apps on my phone,” he said.

    Some ergonomic rules of thumb. Your neck and fingers are susceptible to pain, stiffness, and other issues by not using proper posture and technique when accessing your apps. Dr. Shah, whose daily screen time is between three and four hours, said, “Use different fingers when typing and keep your neck up, rather than down, when looking at your device. It is much better to lift your phone than to bend your neck. Repetitive hand movements can lead to carpal tunnel–like issues [texting thumb] and other issues with your hands, as well as pain or tension in your neck [texting neck].”

    Apps Developed By Your Colleagues

    Save time in the clinic. EyeHandbook, developed by Drs. Shah and Lord, places multiple ophthalmic testing tools, coding guidelines, informational videos, and calculators (and much more) at your fingertips.

    Educate your patients. The goal of Eye Patient, said Dr. Lord, “is to save physicians time in the lane by giving patients a solid go-to resource.” In addi­tion to providing educational videos, this app allows patients to monitor their vision with functions like the Amsler grid, and it can assist them in their daily life with a magnifier function, he said.

    Apps to Consider

    Centralize communications. Google of­fers G Suite, which can serve as a “back­bone for your business’ infrastructure,” according to Dr. Lord. Collaborating via secured messaging, attending video conferences, emailing, and sharing files are some of its most useful features, he said. “It is a really convenient way to communicate from anywhere. When exchanging patient information, we remain HIPAA compliant by using medical record numbers instead of names and birthdays,” he explained. After your practice signs up for G Suite (https://gsuite.google.com), you will be charged a monthly fee depending on which edition you use and how many staff will be using it.

    Online storage. The Google Drive app is a cloud-based online storage service that earns high marks from Dr. Shah. “My whole life is on Google. I can organize my documents and share them with friends, family, staff, and colleagues,” he said.

    Track expenditures. Keeping up with costs is easy with Expensify and QuickBooks. “My favorite app is Expensify because it enables me to do the bookkeeping for my practice, which, with the app, takes me less than 30 minutes per month and eliminates my need for an accountant. I am able to upload my receipts to the cloud and can create monthly reports, as well as create reports for my equip­ment, food, and mileage, for example,” said Dr. Chen.

    QuickBooks has similar functional­ity, plus a payroll option, he said.

    Check your credit score. Keeping tabs on your credit score may be partic­ularly significant to ophthalmologists who have outstanding student loans or those who are looking to open a practice. Dr. Chen recommended using either the Credit Karma or Experian apps.

    Process credit card payments. There are multiple credit card processing services. Dr. Chan has had a good expe­rience with the SwipeSimple app, which is available through Payment Depot (https://paymentdepot.com/l-swipesimple/). He advises looking for trans­parency in fees, and he warned, “Do not get locked into a contract with early termination penalties. Many companies promise to beat their competitors, but customers frequently discover that their fees are much higher after receiving the first few statements.”

    Input contact information from busi­ness cards. With CamCard, users can take a photo of a business card, and the app will save the information to your phone’s contact list, as well as import the original image. “This is a huge timesaver considering all of the business cards that physicians exchange daily,” Dr. Shah said. Other options include Abbyy, ScanBizCards, Wantedly People, and Evernote.

    Keep drug costs in check. Prescriptions can vary tremendously in price, depending on where they are purchased. GoodRx facilitates a quick comparison between pharmacies so patients know their most cost-effective options. Sim­ply enter a drug name and zip code, and GoodRx lists the out-of-pocket charges at local pharmacies. “We used to ask pa­tients to call around for the best price. Using this app not only saves time, it can potentially save your patients a lot of money,” said Dr. Shah.

    Tips on Monitoring Personal Finances

    Monitor Personal Finances. Almost every financial institution offers account holders free access to a banking app for remote access to their account information. The ability to monitor your accounts from a mobile device not only provides updates about your balance but also is a tremendous time-saver. Dr. Lord checks his bank accounts daily to ensure that everything is in order and said that he particularly “likes the ability to deposit checks at any time, and from anywhere, without having to make a trip to a brick-and-mortar banking location.”

    Multiple accounts? No problem. Personal Capital will aggregate all your financial accounts. This app enables users to gain a complete picture of their personal finances. Dr. Chen recommended the free version over the subscriber version because it likely offers all one needs.

    ___________________________

    Got a favorite app? Use the article’s comments section below to recommend it to your colleagues.

    ___________________________

    Dr. Chen is a comprehensive ophthalmologist and solo practitioner at Goodyear Eye Specialists in Goodyear, Ariz. Relevant financial disclosures: Solo Building Blogs: O.

    Dr. Lord is a retina specialist at Retina Associates of Southern Utah in St. George. Relevant financial disclosures: EyePatient: O.

    Dr. Shah is a vitreoretinal specialist at the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute and clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City. Relevant financial disclosures: Cloud Nine Development: O. Eye Patient: O.

    For full disclosures and the disclosure key, see below.

    Full Financial Disclosures

    Dr. Chen SoloBuildingBlogs: O.

    Dr. Lord EyePatient: O.

    Dr. Shah Cloud Nine Development: O; EyePatient: O.

    Disclosure Category

    Code

    Description

    Consultant/Advisor C Consultant fee, paid advisory boards, or fees for attending a meeting.
    Employee E Employed by a commercial company.
    Speakers bureau L Lecture fees or honoraria, travel fees or reimbursements when speaking at the invitation of a commercial company.
    Equity owner O Equity ownership/stock options in publicly or privately traded firms, excluding mutual funds.
    Patents/Royalty P Patents and/or royalties for intellectual property.
    Grant support S Grant support or other financial support to the investigator from all sources, including research support from government agencies (e.g., NIH), foundations, device manufacturers, and/or pharmaceutical companies.