Technology Corner: Taking Your Smartphone to the Next Level

As residents, the habits we develop in training will continue throughout our career  and this applies to our personal life as much as it applies to our professional endeavors. Considering the time commitment required of our roles as residents and attending surgeons, a small investment in time-efficient habits can yield significant returns. Enter the smartphone. Most residents are comfortable using their device for basic tasks, such as email, calendar, and quick-reference orthopaedic knowledge on-the-go. But, have you thought about stepping it up a level and using your devices for full desktop file access, slide presentations, scanning documents, optical character recognition, and more? Read on to learn how recent apps can simplify your life and enhance your work flow.

Most residents utilize the basic iPhone email and calendar apps on a daily basis without considering their limitations and inefficiencies.  However, for less than $10, there are superior apps that can enhance your efficiency and organization.  Two of the popular calendar apps are Fantastical 2 and Calendars 5.  I use Fantastical 2 and love its natural language input when creating events.  For example, utilizing the voice dictation tool I can speak into my phone “I am on call from 5pm to 6am at County Hospital every Tuesday until March 1st” and the app will automatically understand and create the events in one step.  The app also has a far-superior user-interface compared to the default iOS calendar, and easily integrates with your entire existing calendar accounts without any additional setup.  I consider an enhanced calendar a “must have” for anyone, and Fantastical 2 is a great choice.  Similarly, there exist a number of enhanced email apps, such as CloudMagic, Mailbox, Gmail, and many others.  Most offer various features for organizing, prioritizing, and sifting through emails and tasks.  Interested readers should consider trying out a few (many are free).

If your primary computer was dropped into the ocean at this instant, how much critical data would you lose forever?  If you answered anything but “none,” you should seriously consider an automated cloud back-up solution. There exist a plethora of services that, once installed on your desktop or laptop computer, ensure every file you permit is automatically backed up in the cloud.  I use SugarSync, and other popular services include iDrive, Carbonite, etc.  Each product varies with regard to cost, storage space, and minor features, but all offer the same basic functionality of full-system backup with the ability to access files remotely and from mobile devices.  I have found SugarSync most useful for accessing important documents when I am away from my computer, collaborating on research documents with colleagues (without having to email different version back and forth), and sharing photos with family and friends.

As a resident, I like to “travel light” and prefer not to carry a laptop around the hospital.  However, laptops are often necessary for making PowerPoint slides and plugging into a projector… or are they?  Recently, Microsoft has released iPad version of PowerPoint, Excel, and Word.  While the free version limits your ability to save and edit files, I use PowerPoint to give presentations directly from my phone with the help of a VGA or HDMI dongle (sold separately).  The phone is used as a slide controller for advancing slides, and includes a digital “laser pointer” feature that is sure to impress your audience.  Give it a try the next time you have to give a presentation.

Taking photos with your phone is routine, but what about using those photos to scan documents or convert typed words into digital text?  Recent advances in mobile cameras and optical character recognition make all of this possible for free.  Apps such as DocScan and CamScanner can easily convert documents into high-quality PDF and JPG files, convert words into digital text that can be pasted into emails or documents, and even allow you to fax those documents directly from your phone!  One of my favorite features of these apps is the ability to integrate with other cloud services.  For example, CamScanner can be set to automatically upload every scanned document into a pre-designated folder on DropBox, for example, which in turn can automatically download the file to your computer in one step.  These features allow residents and surgeons to create a high-efficiency work flow for cataloguing expense receipts or archiving clinical patient images.

I hope you will find some of these suggestions useful. If you have other “tips and tricks” to share about increasing your smartphone efficiency in the hospital, please email them to: orrin@toporthoapps.com.
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