Summer is upon us. It’s a time when patients and physicians try to get out more and catch some vitamin D-rich rays while becoming more active, too.
For those actively seeking help staying current on medical research, calculating medical formulas or keeping up with patient care via app-based “visits,” PracticeLink Magazine presents three medical apps to help you do just that.
MedCalc & MedCalc Pro
According to MedCalc developers Pascal Pfiffner, M.D., PhD and Mathias Tschopp, M.D., MedCalc and MedCalc Pro medical calculators help physicians save time while leveraging an expansive and ever-increasing variety of often complex formulas, scores and indexes.
Most physicians can only memorize a handful of the formulas they use most when caring for their patients. MedCalc remembers all the formulas, accessing any of more than 300 with only a few taps on an Apple device.
After presenting the mathematically derived results, MedCalc goes two steps further, interpreting calculations and offering bibliographic references in support of those interpretations. MedCalc Pro adds a native iPad interface, notation of formulas and additional data, as well as a patient database for storing results, notes and captured patient images.
MedCalc presents a fast, efficient interface enabling the physician to use it at the patient’s bedside, in an ambulance and in other emergency situations. Physicians designed and created MedCalc to meet the needs of their peers.
Joel Topf, M.D., a nephrologist with St. Clair Specialty Physicians in Detroit, says: “Nephrology is all about the numbers. I run a number of calculations daily; MedCalc is fundamental to my practice.”
MedCalc excels at making an enormous library of formulas available to Topf right at the point of care. “It is very simple to use and enables me to easily switch from one unit of measure to another. MedCalc meets my needs as well as any app,” he says. MedCalc provides supporting references for all of its formulas so Topf knows where the tools are coming from, such as from PubMed.
“MedCalc offers significant time savings. Otherwise I would be searching for a copy of a formula. What was a five-minute procedure now takes 30 seconds.”
AppVisit AppMedicine, Inc. (appmedicine.com) offers a variety of billing models depending on the type of medical practice. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for purchase options.
AppVisit is a mobile physician-patient communications and virtual medical appointment tool. The app facilitates medical diagnosis by leveraging text messaging, email and multimedia e-visits in a HIPAA-compliant solution, says Lisa Serwin, CEO of AppMedicine, Inc., which develops AppVisit. The platform uses cloud-based hosting to scale AppVisit’s capacity for individual practices up to multispecialty clinics and hospitals.
AppVisit requires no medical appointment, unlike video calls. Patients can open the app on their devices and immediately input information. The visits are with the patient’s own trusted personal physician. A reliable message notification system keeps physicians aware of patient conditions, which helps them provide timely care while also reducing legal risks. AppVisit provides direct patient billing for these unreimbursed remote visits, paying doctors the amount they determine.
AppMedicine designed AppVisit for easy customization using templates and drag-and-drop features so medical professionals across a wide range of specialties can adapt it to their needs. Medical providers and physicians will find the app available for Android phones, the iPhone and iPad iOS 6.0 and above. Patients will find versions for Android tablets as well.
Darren Phelan, M.D., runs a concierge style (retainer-based) medical practice in Menlo Park, California. “My partner and I care for 300 patients,” he says. For many medical issues, patients can feel as though they may be bothering the doctor after hours, he explains. They may also have issues that don’t require a visit or a visit after hours to urgent care. “AppVisit has created an organized ‘virtual visit’ that you can accomplish from your phone. It pre-asks many of the questions that the doctor would ask you on the phone, germane to the particular issue,” Phelan says.
Before using AppVisit, Phelan and his partner used email, with a few emails going back and forth to acquire the same data that one AppVisit can provide. “Otherwise, we were picking up the telephone or trying to obtain information the old fashion way,” he says.
Phelan found AppVisit after considering how his patients most want to communicate with him and how he can reach more of them. “HIPAA compliance is what really sold me on AppVisit,” he says. “It communicates securely in an organized, logical fashion so the patient record presents the visit succinctly.”
Phelan’s favorite feature is the check-in feature. “I can securely send the patient just a quick ‘How are you doing?’ message, which many times returns a reply of ‘great’ or ‘fine,’ but also may give me clues early on to potential problems,” he says. Phelan would like to see the ability to send in refills or new medications from the app.
UpToDate is an evidence-based clinical decision support resource with accurate medical data to help even the highly trained physician stay current.
The UpToDate Mobile App and UpToDate MobileComplete for Android, Apple and Windows 8 phones and tablets combine physician-authored clinical knowledge in an innovative technology package that has become integral to clinical workflows for more than 700,000 physicians around the globe, says Andre Rebelo with Wolters Kluwer Health, maker of UpToDate.
UpToDate provides an extensive, continuously updated, searchable data store of clinical content for practicing physicians. The app enables quick information retrieval using a continual login and suggested search terms. Physicians can assign bookmarks, allow auto-complete for search terms and save their search histories.
UpToDate connects physicians to more than 10,000 topical reviews across more than 20 medical specialties. Data from UpToDate vendor Wolters Kluwer Health suggests that physicians use UpToDate more than 18 million times per month to aid their diagnostic and treatment decisions. This suggests a highly trusted resource. UpToDate data is peer-reviewed for accuracy and timeliness.
Peter Chang, M.D., associate program director and academic hospitalist for the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, also practices at Tampa General Hospital.
“I needed a way to source all my medical queries—whether searching general knowledge on a medical topic or finding the most current evidence-based guidelines,” Chang says. “UpToDate meets my needs. With the advent of the UpToDate app, I have a platform I can access when I’m outside the hospital as well.”
Prior to using the UpToDate app, Chang used Internet searches, which are often unreliable.
“Those responses are not uniform, and I would have to sift through a large amount of data to find what I needed,” he says. “PubMed searches were a more reliable option, but it was time-consuming trying to gain access to the articles that those searches returned. I really had to commit to sitting down behind the computer to execute my searches, which was not the most efficient method.”
Chang uses UpToDate on his iPhone to brush up on topics before teaching residents and students or giving patient-specific education on a particular disease process.
“The UpToDate mobile app makes it much easier to access information quickly,” he says. “Our residents also rely on the UpToDate app when admitting a patient.”
Chang uses UpToDate when researching from home. UpToDate searches often serve as a springboard for more extensive research using other evidence-based information such as journal articles.
His favorite UpToDate features include UpToDate Mobile’s calculators, which aid in-patient care diagnoses. “We may need to calculate fractional excretions of sodium, MELDs or GFRs.
With the UpToDate mobile app, I can pull up almost every medical formula there is, see how it is derived, and plug in patient information to perform calculations,” he says.
The only improvement Chang would recommend is access within the app to full journal articles rather than only the article citations and abstracts.