Ophthalmology, being one of the areas of medicine that people outside of the field know very little about, has often been given the short end of the stick when it comes to the number of apps available.

I have oft-lamented this relative lack of ophthalmology apps (especially if you don’t count the Snellen Chart apps), but now the developers of Eye Handbook have seeminly set out to provide a comprehensive resource to make up for this shortage.

Eye Handbook is a huge app; I don’t mean physically because it’s only optimized for the iPhone. It is huge in its scope and huge in its ambition.

Its ambition is to be the app that ophthalmologists go to whenever they have a question about a disease, need to look up a drug, can’t find the optokinetic drum in the office, or just want to learn something new.

These are disparate objectives, but Eye Handbook takes a good shot at covering them all.

Eye Handbook’s collaboration with the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) also gives it access to valuable resources, links, and an instant injection of credibility. While not everything in this section is particularly useful (some are just links), I did find the AAO Summary Benchmarks to be quite practical, as it outlined clearly the examination, testing, diagnosis and treatment, follow up, and patient education for various eye diseases.

There is also a section where one can purchase AAO patient education movies for $1.99 each. While my copy of this app doesn’t come with the videos, I imagine that the videos would be much more useful if the app was optimized for the iPad. I couldn’t imagine ever passing around an iPhone in the waiting area of a clinic for patient education, nor could I ever imagine a patient downloading this app and navigating through all the ophthalmic jargon to get to these videos.

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The next part of the app is a neat section called “Blink”, which presents rare cases every month or two. An ophthalmic image along with a case history is presented and the reader may be challenged to guess the diagnosis. These cases lean more toward uncommon or rare presentations of disease, definitely more suitable for ophthalmologists than for beginning students.

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The calculator section lists a small number of handy formulas ranging from simple visual acuity conversions to a glaucoma risk calculator. There is also an ICD-9 codes section. Again, these are very specialized sections that I really do not see non-eye specialists ever needing.

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The media center is a bit of a mixed bag. Here, users have access to various media including audio recordings, ebooks, flash cards, lectures, or movies. I downloaded a few items but already noticed that a couple of the media files did not load properly. The selection was also relatively small, so there’s no guarantee that one will find a particular topic. I did like the Eye Handbook team’s miscellaneous flash cards though.

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