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Nicholas Cheng, Rahul Chakrabarti, Jonathan Kam; iPhone applications in ophthalmology: Current capabilities, limitations and future directions. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2013;54(15):4398.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Smartphone applications (‘apps’) continue to revolutionize modern medical practice, with a growing trend of app use in nearly all branches of medicine. Ophthalmology is no exception and although previous studies have attempted to document the capabilities of many ophthalmology-related smartphone apps, the majority of these utilize arbitrary search methods with a comprehensive review yet to be published in this area. Additionally, while ophthalmologists have been enthusiastic in their uptake of smartphone apps, concerns regarding the reliability and validity of these apps have not been addressed. This quantitative review categorizes the ophthalmology apps currently available, evaluates medical involvement, identifies current limitations and suggests future directions in this area.
The United States Apple iTunes store was searched for iPhone ophthalmology themed apps using terms based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) common eye conditions. Data collected included publisher, publication date, category/primary purpose, cost, number of downloads, average user rating and documented involvement of medical professionals.
A total of 90 ophthalmology-related apps were identified. The number of ophthalmology apps published increased each year from 2009, with 25 apps published in 2012. The majority of apps lacked consumer ratings and had fewer than 1000 downloads (71% and 76% respectively). Consistent with other medical specialties, only 32% of apps had documented medical professional involvement in their development. 41% of apps designed for ophthalmologists had documented medical involvement, compared to 28% for non-ophthalmic medical professionals, and 10% for the general public.
Smartphone apps are likely to only become of greater relevance to the modern ophthalmologist with tremendous versatility in daily clinical practice. However, despite the rapid emergence of apps in ophthalmology, there remains a low level of medical involvement in app development and a lack of peer review after publishing. This article shows there is a clear need for evidence-based principles and standards of app development to be adapted to this emerging area of mobile health.
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