Harrison’s Manual of Medicine App: Translation of Famous Medical Text to Mobile Form [App Review]

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I was introduced to Harrison’s Manual of Medicine via Access Medicine back in my first year of medical school (most academic centers have a subscription to Access Medicine).  I needed to find a good resource for my PBL(Problem Based Learning) small group sessions and it seemed the easiest to read for a kid fresh out of undergrad.  Later on I found resources such as UpToDate and eventually developed the ability to actually understood research papers, but Harrison’s Manual of Medicine was great to read early on.  Not only is it great to use in Medical School, but It’s a textbook you’ll often find in the clinic setting and is read and referenced by practicing providers.

It would then only seem natural to have the full text or even the online version (via Access Medicine), translated to a mobile application.  When you search for Harrison’s in the App Store you’re presented with 3 Apps!  Inherently, I thought I’d only have one option.  There is a version by Unbound Medicine, Skyscape, and MedHand.  The price to access/download each is $59.99, the key difference is that the MedHand version does not require a yearly subscription.  You pay the flat rate of $59.99.  Also, the MedHand version is a stand alone application, not requiring you to access the internet, unlike the others.  Because of these advantages, the MedHand version was chosen for a full review of Harrison’s Manual of Medicine(17th edition).

When you open up the application you are presented with a list of common topics, ranging from organ systems, such as Cardiology, to topics such as Care of the Hospitalized Patient.  I can’t imagine anyone thumbing through these individual topics, and the best method to proceed is to use the search option provided.

 
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The search function is the highlight of this application.  For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking up endocarditis.  You are given a list of pertinent articles based on your search.  However, the beauty of the search function is you are given a tab to narrow your search down based on what you’re looking for, e.g., you can refine the search based on image, tables, and treatment options.  I found this to be extremely useful because finding key tables, in this case, the Duke Criteria related to Infective endocarditis, can be very useful.

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for you can click on your topic of choice, and you’re given an abridged version of the content you would find using Access Medicine or the actual textbook (the disappointment in this will be explained later)

 
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What I liked:
  • No Subscription required
  • Stand Alone application! Does not require a connection to the internet
  • Search feature is robust and the highlight of this application
  • Ability to Bookmark topics, and a History section is present
  • You’re given instructions on exactly where to find more detailed info within the full Harrison’s manual at the end of sections

 
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What I didn’t like so much, and what could be improved upon:
  • You have to go into your settings menu on the iPhone to change text size! And even then, you’re only given 3 options, Small, Normal, Large. There is no ability to change text size within the application.  When using this app you have to use it with a small text size, otherwise you’ll find yourself scrolling entirely too much.
  • Overall User Interface is not clean and seamless, especially when compared to other applications, such as the Merck Manual series.  Icons and navigation menus are gaudy and not clear at times.
  • The biggest knock on this application is it doesn’t include the full text that you can find using Access Medicine.
Conclusion:

Overall, the team at MedHand did a decent job of bringing the abridged version of Harrison’s Manual of Medicine to mobile form.  The User Interface and navigation needs to be made more seamless.  With all the aesthetically pleasing medical applications out right now, you would hope this application would follow suite soon.

 
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The biggest knock on this application was mentioned above, the lack of full text (look at the pictures in this section to see the difference in content size).  I don’t know if MedHand wasn’t able to bring the full because of contract rules, but I found this to be bothersome.  The reason many medical professionals read Harrison’s Manual is for a detailed explanation of etiology, pathologies, and treatment options.  Harrison’s Manual is not the first thing you turn to if you want to look up a topic you can read quickly.  For that you use UpToDate or Epocrates.  Rather, Harrison’s has traditionally been great because of the detailed knowledge it provides.

 
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This being said, if you want an abridged version of Harrison’s Manual, that has a great search feature built in, than you can try this application.  This application is unique in the App Store because it doesn’t require a subscription, like the other Harrison’s Manuals in the App Store, and is stand-alone(not requiring an internet connection).  But if you want the full text, like most would, than your best option is to use the mobile form of Access Medicine when you’re at your academic center or practice.  Also, the Merck Manual – Professional Edition is a fantastic alternative reference application that offers the same set of features as well, just not the iconic name of “Harrison’s”.

[itunes]

[website]

Addendum:

One of our commenters made a great point that I was unaware of. There are two versions of Harrison’s: Principles and Manual. Its odd because the edition numbers are the same, and the branding method seems odd and confusing. Nevertheless, this app is Harrison’s Manual, which is an abridged version of Harrison’s Principles. The overall review pointed out the app is an abridged version of the text you find via Access Medicine, which still holds true.

Discussion ( 8 comments ) Post a Comment
  • I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  • How does the Harrison’s application compare to the professional edition of the Merck manual (Ignoring the price difference)? Is the Merck manual the full text? Which one has more topics? Do both deal with diagnostic workups and treatment? Thanks!

  • Thanks so much for your reply. Could you elaborate on what is missing from the Merck Manual Professional Edition?

  • Actually I believe one of your points is incorrect – Harrison’s Manual (which is 1264 pages @ $59.95) is NOT on Access Medicine. Harrison’s Principles (the larger book which is 2650 pages and $199) is what is on Access Medicine. This app is a full (not abridged) version of Harrison’s Manual so it is what it represents itself to be – the full $59.95 Harrison’s Manual book. The books are totally separate products and the only way to access the larger Harrison’s Principles book is via Access Medicine.

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