Some of the bread and butter tools, apps, and services for independent medical practices can be free. Free is made possible by shifting the cost burden from doctors to content and other service vendors. There are numerous medical service and content businesses that vie for your attention — they’re willing to pay for it, so you don’t have to. Here’s a curated list of free tools you may want to keep in your electronic “black bag.”
Medscape – Point of care content reference
From medical students to seasoned healthcare providers, Medscape is a top free content provider in and out of the exam room. Powered by WebMD’s network, Medscape has years of experience aggregating and interpreting useful clinical content from medical journals and beyond. Whether the clinical question is about heart failure therapy or the more esoteric nuances of nail fungus, the breadth of Medscape is impressive. It also provides CME credits for your activity on the site. Registration is required, but free.
Figure 1 – Secure smartphone-based photo sharing
This new app touted as “Instagram for doctors” combines the best aspects of visual medicine and collaboration. Figure 1 is a physicians-only community of photo sharing, allowing HIPAA-compliant sharing of whatever patient pathology can be captured by a camera. From skin findings to X-rays, you’ll find a crowdsourced collection of images on your smartphone that you can browse and contribute to. The app automatically blurs faces and removes identifying patient information. Comments can be left by verified medical professionals to help other physicians with diagnoses, or the photo collection can be browsed for general interest. Some photos posted may lack enough context to be helpful, so be sure to leave enough of a history to help the community help you.
CDC’s influenza app – Get the official word on flu
Keep up on the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on flu. What are the components of the latest vaccine? Should you give antivirals or order viral lab testing? This free app helps keep you up-to-date on the latest recommendations on infection control for this annually changing bug.
Sermo – Round with your colleagues online
What started as an online venue to report adverse drug reactions has now become a vibrant closed community for doctors to speak their mind. To gain access, Sermo verifies medical credentials, but allows docs to remain anonymous. It’s chock-full of specialty-specific forums to discuss difficult or interesting cases. It has also grown popular as a sounding board for general issues surrounding running a practice and tips navigating salient policy and medico-legal issues.