They help people connect, keep you informed, and now they guide scalpels to save lives. While technology increasingly finds its way into operation theatres, surgeons are hooked to their gizmos for help to direct their surgeries. From fine-tuning their surgical skills to calculating the risks involved in a procedure and keeping them updated on the latest scientific breakthroughs, apps are replacing referral books for surgeons as they prepare to make the cut.
And it’s not just surgeries. Apps like Epocrates help doctors choose drugs and dosage. “There are millions of drugs in the market and it isn’t easy to remember all. The app helps us decide what drug to prescribe and mentions the dosage, side-effects and interaction with other drugs,” says intervention cardiologist Dr G Sengottuvelu who has three other apps on his android phone and tablet. One of them gives him the latest breakthroughs in his specialization, another helps him calculate the likelihood of a patient getting a heart attack, while the third is for patient records.
It is not just surgeons who find apps handy. Patients can access apps to know if they need medical help. “There are a lot of apps that help test the heart and eyes. For example, retinal degeneration can be tested with an app that shows a straight line. If it is wobbly to the person, he or she clearly needs medical help,” says ophthalmologist Dr Amar Agarwal who also uses SloPro, an app that shows videos in slow motion, to diagnose. “These let patients understand the procedure they are about to undergo. We’ve found that it improves patient comprehension and reduces anxiety. Doctors are not gods anymore. It’s more of a shared partnership,” he says.
Touch Surgery, an iOS and Android surgery simulator, allows surgeons to practise and rehearse operations before they enter the operating room. Every step of the procedure is animated in graphic 3D detail.
Nobody disputes their usefulness, but some seniors warn that technology should not be taken as an absolute substitute for clinical judgment through close inspection and interaction with the patient, and handson practice of surgery. “These apps are helpful, but doctors need to use them judiciously. It shouldn’t be used as a standard of medical practice, but as an adjunct,” says Dr George Thomas, former editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.