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Hot Topics | May/Jun '14

Five Nonmedical Apps I Can’t Live Without as a Physician

The digital revolution is leaving its mark on all our lives. On every level—from personal to social to leisure to professional—the digital landscape continues to evolve. In the App Store, there are more than 40,000 medical and health apps available. Some are geared toward clinicians and others toward consumers, and I have used many of them from both ends. Here are five nonmedical apps that I find most useful to the practicing, conference-travelling, lecturing, digital-minded physician.

1.PDF Expert 5

This is one of the most-utilized productivity apps on my iPhone. As MDs, we’re frequently sent forms to sign, whether from an insurance company or a hospital, a contract, etc. These are usually sent as a PDF document that can easily be viewed on a smartphone. The normal workflow would be to print out the document (typically requiring a desktop), sign and annotate the hard copy by hand, scan the document (again to a connected desktop), and then email an attachment of the digitized file back. Ouch. With PDF Expert, on my iPhone, I can view a document; touch to sign; type in my name, date, and other fields; and email the new PDF document literally in under 30 seconds. This quick response has actually garnered “wows” from the senders. (Click to Download PDF Expert 5)


Despite Keynote, Prezi, and other presentation formats, we still live in a PowerPoint world. Yet most of us are using iPhones and iPads over our laptops. Despite the recent release of Office for iOS, SlideShark provides unbeatable features for physician-presenters. Whether it’s a preapproved pharma slide deck, a grand rounds presentation, a committee meeting, or a CME activity, SlideShark allows me to keep my presentations synced in the cloud and available on any of my mobile devices. Once uploaded, SlideShark converts my PowerPoint files to a SlideShark mobile format, maintaining all fonts, animations, and videos and ready to be presented from my mobile device.

Using my iPhone or iPad’s SlideShark app, I can then present directly from my iPad mini (with a small adapter inset [Lightning to VGA Adapter by Apple]) and control the talk with my iPhone (via Bluetooth). Alternatively, I’ve presented full PowerPoint presentations directly from my iPhone. SlideShark also has a unique broadcasting feature that allows you to let anyone with an Internet-connected device watch your presentation in real time by clicking on a shared URL. SlideShark is a mobile, cloud-based, interactive presentation tool that fits perfectly with an on-the-go physician’s presentation schedules. (Click to Download SlideShark)


I find it hard to believe that many doctors still carry pagers. And then, at the other extreme, some of my colleagues give their cell phone numbers to patients for emergencies. I believe that a happy medium exists, and while there are many solutions for paging, I use RingCentral. This is a full-featured Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) virtual phone system with countless features, but I use it primarily as my pager and personal fax.

After signing up for the service, RingCentral will give you a new personal telephone number, which my office provides as my “pager.” When a call comes in, the caller hears my greeting stating that, if it is an emergency, to please leave a message and I will call back.

Once a message is left, I receive both an SMS and an email notification. On my phone, within the email, I can easily listen to the message (it’s an attached file). Best of all, through the RingCentral app, I can then call the party back and have it display my pager telephone as the caller ID, so I am not passing on my cell phone number.

Furthermore, my RingCentral number detects incoming faxes and will send me an email with the fax attached as a PDF. It is great to have my office forward me documents when I’m away. And combined with PDF Expert (described above), I can even immediately sign one of these forms and have it sent back in seconds. (Click to Download RingCentral)


Cloud storage is a buzzword and concept familiar to most of us. Over the past few years, many individuals and corporations have migrated their data from locally hosted environments to the cloud, reaping economic and productivity gains. Many EMRs have been making this very transition. Dropbox was one of the first mass-market cloud storage providers, and we use it regularly in our office. By maintaining a constantly synced repository of documents among all our computers and physicians’ smartphones, the practice remains well organized and productive.

We use Dropbox to maintain an updated copy of all practice forms, form letters, and office records. When a practice form is updated on one computer, the newest version is automatically updated to all computers instantly. Similarly, physicians’ credentialing materials are kept up to date in a Dropbox file. Whenever a license or DEA renewal arrives (whether at the main office, physician’s home, or by email), it is scanned into the Dropbox folder and then is immediately available on all computers, tablets, and MD iPhones.

Of note, Dropbox is not officially HIPAA certified (as of this writing) and should not be used to store protected health information. Third-party software such as Sookasa (www.sookasa.com) allows Dropbox files to be encrypted and become HIPAA compliant. Other cloud storage providers such as Box.com and even Google Drive will sign a business association agreement (BAA) with the practice (with an advanced paid subscription), allowing HIPAA compliance. (Click to Download Dropbox)


Many small businesses have systems and processes in place for expense reimbursement. But we physicians likely have very basic paper receipt tracking of our conference, consulting, or other reimbursable expenses.

Expensify is an easy app-based solution I have been using to simplify my expenses. Immediately after receiving a receipt, I take an iPhone photo of it. Expensify’s SmartScan software extracts the relevant receipt data, such as merchant name, date, and dollar amount, and then stores this information.

When I want to aggregate the expenses, it’s as easy as selecting the relevant receipts, and Expensify weaves them together into a beautiful, shareable, expense report. No more paper receipts in back pockets and purses.

Productivity apps are utilized by most industries, and the practice of medicine is no exception. For me, these five apps help me maintain productivity in the increasingly complex environment we face. There are countless other useful apps, and I look forward to hearing your experiences in the comments section. (Click to Download Expensify)

Disclaimer: I have no financial interests in any of the products mentioned. This article represents the author’s opinion, and users should obtain their own legal/regulatory/compliance advice regarding HIPAA.

Tal Raviv, MD

Tal Raviv, MD, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Opthalmology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mouth Sinai and the Found and Medical Director of the Eye Center of New York. Dr. Raviv has no financial interest in the products or companies mentioned. He may be reached at (212)889-3550; TalRavivMD@EyeCenterofNY.com.