By Vinay A. Shah, MD, Ron K. Lord, MD, Rohit Krishna, MD and Ashley San Filippo, MD

Physicians appear to be embracing mobile technology at a faster rate than the general population, and ophthalmologists are no exception. Currently, smartphones are being utilized by 64% of U.S. physicians, and this number is projected to reach 81% in 2012. As ophthalmologists, we have the ability to use smartphones in countless areas of practice and education. We believe potential functions of smartphones in ophthalmology can be divided into the following broad categories:

1. Testing Tools
2. Patient Education Tools
3. Physician Reference Tools
4. Physician Education Tools
5. Calculators and Other Office-Based Tools

In a previous issue of Pearls in Ophthlamology, we discussed the various testing tools that you can use on the iPhone and other smartphones.  In the following article, we will discuss the potential for using your smartphone for patient education purposes.



Patient education is the process of providing verbal, visual and written material to improve patient understanding of ophthalmic diseases and disease processes.  Providing patient education can result in improved long term outcomes which can lead to better coping and decision making skills. Patients who have a strong understanding of their disease or illness are much more likely to recover fully and be more compliant to their treatment regimine. 


Patient education is provided usually by instruction sheets or brochures about medical conditions. Pharmaceutical representatives have in the past provided these printed materials, eye models, and diagrams.  Videos about various disease processes and treatments are also helpful.    The internet has changed both the physician and patient education regarding their disease process.  Believe it or not the smartphone can integrate most of the above mentioned patient education tools and more in your and your patients palm. We believe it is the most efficient, effective and environmentally friendly mode of patient education available to the physician.  We will demonstrate various applications available on the iPhone that can be used for patient education.


Eye Handbook (


This is the most comprehensive iPhone application available on iTunes which can be downloaded for free.  This application dedicates a separate icon for patient education on its home screen.


The eye diagrams and eye movies are high resolution images that are useful to the physician to demonstrate and explain the anatomy, pathology and various treatment procedures and options to the patient.  The eye movie provides a 3D rendering of a rotating eyeball whereby the physician can delineate the specific anatomical considerations in medical or surgical disease management.


The “most common” is a useful list of various common disease processes that are encountered in day to day ophthalmology practice.  The “Eye Handbook” provides a short description of a topic to the patient and then a small list of relevant and credible patient education websites for the patients to learn more about the diagnosis.  This lessens the patients’ need to “Google” their diagnosis and provides trustworthy references.  A wonderfully designed aspect is that ophthalmologist can just email specific information to the patient right from his/her smartphone as they are talking to their patient in the office.

In addition to diagrams and videos held on smartphones,  many attachments are being developed which allow pico projections cameras to display right from a phone.  These can be especially useful when a small audience is present.





 IKONION is another application that is helpful for patient education that is available on the iPhone.  This app provides a brief description and very high resolution pictures/videos on specific eye conditions like cataract to the patient.  Patients can download the application on their phone and view these animations and understand the disease process and be better informed and educated regarding their condition.




There are various other patient education applications available on the smartphone for medicine however their applicability to ophthalmology is presently limited.

Having patient education information in the palm of your hand is an excellent tool to augment your ability as a physician to educate patients and keep them informed.  Smartphones will likely continue to evolve in this way as their utility continues to increase.

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