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Tech Culture | Mar/Apr '14

Photography Made Easy in an Oculoplastic Practice

As an anterior segment specialist, my clinical photographs usually involve high-magnification slit-lamp photos of everything from the ocular surface to the lens. Rarely, if ever, do I take external photographs of the eyelids or surrounding tissues. In fact, if I ever get an urge to photograph something interesting in this area, I use that as a trigger to formally consult my oculoplastic service. Below, my friend and Weill Cornell colleague Ben Levine (with help from a resident, research fellow, and administrator) demonstrates how he has seamlessly adopted standard camera technology into his everyday oculoplastic practice.

–Christopher E. Starr, MD

Patient photographs are a critical component of any oculoplastic surgery practice. These photographs are often necessary for chart documentation and obtaining insurance authorization for surgical procedures. In addition, the photographs aid in teaching trainees, communicating with patients, and collaborating with colleagues.

Given their utmost importance, capturing, reviewing, and storing these photographs efficiently can mean the difference between powering through a busy day in the office and being stuck dealing with a clinic full of unhappy patients waiting to be seen.

In my clinic, I use my smartphone to take all of my clinical photographs. Using my smartphone has a few distinct advantages over other cameras. First, I always know where it is located—in my right pants pocket. I don’t have to rummage through multiple exam rooms to find the office camera because my colleague who used it last felt it necessary to hide it in a nondescript cabinet. Second, I can immediately load the photographs on my smartphone’s display screen and review pertinent findings with the patient. I have found that patients appreciate reviewing photographs at the time of initial consultation, and I save ample time by not having to transfer my images to a separate device for display. Last, the photographs are readily transferred from my smartphone to my EMR via a USB link at the end of the clinic day.


With the Samsung Galaxy S3, clinical photographs can be loaded onto the smartphone's display screen for reviewing images with patients.

I currently own a Samsung Galaxy S3, and I am very happy with the quality of the pictures. It has an 8-megapixel camera with an LED flash and a variety of adjustable features. For patients with facial movement disorders, the phone also offers a camcorder to capture video recordings. I believe that all of the current-generation smartphones have cameras capable of taking quality clinical photographs. One advantage of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is that is has a slightly larger display screen (5.38 x 2.78 inches) compared with its popular iPhone rival (4.87 x 2.31 inches), which is helpful when reviewing images with patients.

A few words of caution: One must remember that patient photographs are protected health information. It is crucial to make sure that the photographs and any other health information stored on your phone remain private. Access to my phone is password restricted, and the phone automatically locks after only 5 seconds of nonuse. This is a very important feature to have in place in the event that you lose your smartphone or have it stolen. Transferring the patient photographs to an EMR and then deleting the photographs from the smartphone should habitually occur at the end of each clinic day.

Dr. Levine demonstrates how he obtains external patient photographs using his smartphone.

In conclusion, I believe that using a smartphone camera provides the practitioner with the ability to conveniently and efficiently obtain and review external patient photographs. By creating a more seamless workflow, smartphone photography has the potential to increase both doctor and patient satisfaction.

Acknowledgements: Kira Segal, MD; Jenny Waltzer; and Cecilia Nicole.

Benjamin Levine, MD

Benjamin Levine, MD, is an oculoplastic surgery specialist and an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He may be reached at bel9016@med.cornell.edu.