Smart Apps for Smart Docs

Oncology Fellows, June 2015, Volume 7, Issue 2

Life as a fellow is extremely hectic, and mobile apps can help us save an enormous amount of time when conducting research.

Prerna Mewawalla, MD

Remember the days when we would open Tarascon Pharmacopoeia every time we needed to look up information on a medication? More often than not, we had to run down to the nearest desktop computer in the hospital or university to browse through information, or at times visit the neighborhood library. Now, there are thousands of medical mobile applications that can provide quick access to information.

So why is it necessary for hematology and oncology fellows to know more about mobile apps? Life as a fellow is extremely hectic, and mobile apps can help us save an enormous amount of time when conducting research. These apps can also help us become more efficient. However, they should all be regarded as accessories.

For the medical fraternity, life has just become more efficient, more accurate, and much faster—all we need to know about medicine is literally at our fingertips.

When you use a mobile app on your smartphone, lo and behold, everything you want to know appears instantaneously. We now have the opportunity to access information while sitting with patients, rounding, and moving from one floor to another. However, in this information age, there is an abundance of information that can make it difficult to access the most pertinent and reliable medical information. Therefore, I have developed this article to help you understand which types of mobile apps may be most useful during fellowship, as well as throughout your medical career.

As a hematology-oncology fellow, I find medical calculation apps like MediCal extremely useful. These apps perform several types of important calculations (eg, 4T score, carboplatin dosing). They are also very helpful in grading patients’ performance statuses and when staging diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome with the International Prognostic Scoring System.

When managing care for my cancer patients, I like to refer to the NCCN Guidelines and UpToDate apps on my phone. These apps help me make reliable and fast decisions about how to treat and care for my patients.

And because memorizing steroid and opioid conversions can be so difficult, yet so important to understand and perform correctly when treating patients, I like to use apps such as CortiConverter and Opioid Converter. Making errors when converting drugs from one type to another can lead to serious issues such as opioid overdose.

In addition, several mobile apps now help patients better collaborate with their cancer care team. When used correctly, patient-friendly mobile apps can make it easier to review enormous amounts of patient data related to their diagnosis, treatment options, outcomes, and survivorship issues, and can help us make more informed decisions.

Apple recently launched ResearchKit, which enables medical research in real time. Patients choose to submit their health parameters in a predefined format using specific apps on their smartphones. ResearchKit is expected to help professionals access important patient-related health data that can make it easier to deliver more personalized care to their patients. High-value and insightful patient data, so hard and tedious to collect in the past, is now readily available to us.

When suggesting patient-friendly mobile apps to your patients, it is important to remember that they have a strong say in sharing only the data they are most comfortable sharing, as protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. However, patient-friendly apps are extremely useful and have the potential to enrich the research that has been primarily survey-based in the past.

Some applications, although not designed specifically for use in the medical world, still go a long way in providing medical-related servi-ces and support. For instance, I use Genuis Scan to create a snapshots of important documents. These snapshots can quickly be converted into PDFs or JPEG files and shared instantaneously.

I also find the Fax Burner mobile app helpful. Fax Burner makes it possible to send and receive faxes right from your smartphone. Isn’t it fascinating that a phone in the palm of your hand can replace a 20-pound facsimile machine?

As a fellow, it can be difficult sifting through the most recent and important medical articles and keeping up-to-date on cancer research. However, I find mobile apps such as Evernote, Slack, and BaseCamp helpful when reading up on or sharing the latest in oncology, and when collaborating with colleagues.

During fellowship, storage and quick retrieval of important medical articles you access often is essential. I find apps like iBooks and Pocket helpful for storing, sharing, and referring back to articles of interest.

Additionally, Cloud Storage—free for limited use—provides access to this information on-the-go on all mobile devices, and across all geographies. Our call schedules, lecture schedules, notes, pictures, and even Doodle are available on the go.

Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive have almost eliminated the need for CD/DVDs, pen drives, and even hard disks. You need not be tethered to a desktop anymore. Apps such as File Manager work like a pen drive, enabling you to store any type of document for access at a later time.

This is just the beginning. With the “smart wearable” market exploding, technology like smartwatches, JawBone, or FitBit bands further help us navigate through our busy day. But can using all these applications make us dumber? Over time, will we forget doses, formulae, and chemotherapy regimens? Are we too dependent on these electronic tools?

I recently read a study that examined the smartphone addiction. A survey of 1600 managers and professionals by Leslie Perlow, PhD, the Konosuke Matsushita professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, found that:1

  • 70% check their smartphones within an hour of getting up;
  • 56% check their phone within an hour of going to sleep;
  • 48% check over the weekend, including Friday and Saturday nights;
  • 51% check continuously during vacations;
  • 44% said they would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week.

It is very important to maintain a good balance when using all the new technology available at our fingertips. We should NOT lose our knowledge base, especially when providing care to our patients. We should use technology as an accessory but not rely on it to make all our decisions.

Mobile Medicine: Apps for the Healthcare Professional

Health Communication


PLATFORMS: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Endorsed by the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium and renowned palliative care physician Diane Meier, the Health Communication app provides access to theory-driven and evidence-based communication tools that are useful in difficult conversations with patients during moments of tension, sorrow, fear, anxiety, awkwardness, and hesitancy. Health Communication provides over 100 different communication strategies (searchable by scenario) to help clinicians provide compassionate and culturally sensitive care to seriously and critically-ill patients and their families. Mobile


PLATFORMS: Android, iPhone, and iPad

The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Mobile app provides accurate, oncologist-approved cancer information on 120 types of cancer including information about treating cancer, managing side effects, managing the cost of care, and living with cancer. Healthcare professionals can suggest this app to their patients to help them save information about their prescribed medications, including photos of labels and bottles, and track the time and severity of symptoms and side effects.

Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests

PRICE: Free download preview; $39.99 in-app purchase

PLATFORMS: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

The Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests app can be used by healthcare professionals who need to review accurate recommendations for ordering and interpreting laboratory, diagnostic, and imaging tests. This app provides immediate, evidence-based information on the selection and interpretation of more than 450 commonly used laboratory and electrocardiographic tests, diagnostic imaging tests, and therapeutic monitoring tests. Additional features include a universal index search tool to help professionals quickly locate information and a “Favorites” tool for bookmarking important entries.

Docphin—Medical Journals and PubMed


PLATFORMS: Android, iPhone, and iPad

Docphin is designed to help busy healthcare professionals keep up with the latest in medical research. Currently trusted by medical professionals in over 400 hospitals in more than 15 countries, this app allows users to create a personalized medical newsfeed and receive alerts when their favorite medical journals publish articles on specified medical topics or by particular authors. With Docphin, users can access full-article PDFs, save them, and e-mail them to colleagues.

My Cancer Genome


PLATFORMS: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

My Cancer Genome is designed to help medical professionals keep track of the rapidly evolving world of genetically informed cancer medicine. App users can search for and save information on cancer types, cancer-related genes, and specific cancer-related genetic mutations. The app also provides information on drug classes, drug targets, and drug names for antineoplastic agents, either FDA-approved or being studied in clinical trials.

1. Breaking the smartphone addiction. Harvard Business School website. Published May 14, 2012. Accessed May 7, 2015.