Apple CareKit based app enables smoother surgery process for cataract patients

Tommy Korn, MD is an ophthalmologist at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, California

Apple’s CareKit platform enables ophthalmologists to provide better quality care for cataract patients undergoing surgery. 

Cataract surgery is one of the most common eye-related procedures affecting more than 3.6 million people each year in the US.

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Researchers at Sharp HealthCare, under the leadership of Dr. Tommy Korn, decided to make the patient experience more comfortable by developing a preoperative health companion app.

Sharp Health companion app is a CareKit based app designed for senior patients to prepare and recover from eye surgery.

According to Dr. Tommy Korn, MD, the adoption of Apple platform-based digital healthcare experience has resulted in:

  1. Zero surgery cancellations
  2. Improved medication (eye drop) adherence and
  3. High patient satisfaction and convenience

The health care outcomes for cataract surgery patients using the Sharp health Companion app were documented by Dr. Tommy Korn in Ophthalmology Times.

“We would give patients all these confusing instructions, and patients would show up at the wrong location, have breakfast on the day of the surgery when they were not supposed to, or not adjust their systemic medications properly,” Korn said.

Dr. Korn added that a surgeon can perform impressive, efficient cataract surgery. Still, if the patient does not follow through with their care recovery and eye drop instructions, then the surgery efforts and resources have gone to waste.

Korn’s experience over the years in surgery alerted him to potential pitfalls that can affect cataract surgery and outcomes, which drove him to come up with a solution to sidestep these pitfalls.

The Sharp Health Companion app acts as a physician or nurse at a patient’s side, guiding patients with critical information ranging from directions to the surgery location to timely reminders for putting in eye drops before and after surgery. 

The app also allows doctors and care teams to monitor patients remotely by tracking eye drop adherence and vision performance with a built-in visual acuity test using an iPhone screen.

Sharp Healthcare Carekit app for Cataract surgery patients
Image Source: Ophthalmology Times via Dr. Tommy Korn

Korn has kept data on the app’s impact on surgery cancellations.

In the 6 months before using the app, when instructions were provided on paper and reminders were in the form of phone calls to 542 patients, 5% to 7% of surgeries were canceled.

In the following 6 months, the Sharp Health Companion app was used for instructions and reminders in 349 scheduled surgeries—there were no cancellations.

For the 542 patients who did not use the app and received paper instructions for administration of eye drops, the adherence rate was 50% to 65%.

When the Sharp Health Companion App was used, there was an 80% adherence to eye medications.

Dr. Korn and his team at Sharp HealthCare plan on expanding the use of the app for retina, oculoplastic, and glaucoma procedures.

This is just one example of Apple’s CareKit enabling digital health by delivering successful health outcomes for elderly patients.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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