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

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.

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.



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”.




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.


Iltifat Husain, MD

Founder, Editor-in-Chief of iMedicalApps.com. Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Mobile App curriculum at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He is also the founder of iPrescribeApps, a platform for prescribing apps to patients. Dr. Husain has given lectures on digital medicine globally. He went to North Carolina State University for undergrad and went to medical school at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

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

  1. Darryl Coleman January 12, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    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!

  2. MS3 January 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    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!

  3. iltifat January 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    So the Merck Manual Professional Edition technically isn’t the full version of the manual, however, if I had to compare the two, I’d say the Professional Edition is more thorough than the abridged version of Harrison’s Manual. Plus, as I talked about in the review, the UI and navigation flows much more smoother in the Merck Manual Professional Edition.

  4. MS3 January 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

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

  5. iltifat January 12, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    Well, its more of an abridged version than the book. It has basically the same info, but synthesized to more “relevant” or “High-yield” info. Now, I preface this with saying I haven’t gone through the Merck Manual book in detail. So lets take the Endocarditis example I mentioned in the above review, in the Merck Manual, you have about twice as much info, and the great thing w/ the Merck Manual is you get trade names and many hyperlinks within their articles. Its kind of like the Wikipedia format, but with real legitimacy backing them (physicians are in charge of making sure the information is accurate). Their tables or formatted pretty nicely as well for the iPhone screen. The nice thing with the Merck Manual – Professional Edition is it does a good job presenting a wealth of knowledge, so again, you don’t necessarily use it for a quick look up of a pathology, but rather a deeper level of knowledge about a pathology. It seems as if you’re a 3rd year medical student (MS3), if so I’d still recommend using your academic centers resources on your iPhone, they should be sufficient on the wards. If you’re in the clinic a lot and don’t have the same resources available (e.g. up to date access on your phone), than its not a bad idea to get the Merck Manual Professional Edition. Having a quick resource available to answer questions before you get pimped by attendings is always a good idea, definitely saved me a lot during my 3rd year!

  6. jim p January 28, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    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.

  7. Iltifat Husain January 28, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    Jim, I looked into this some more and didn’t realize the Manual was not the full version of the text, Harrison’s “Principles”. Thanks for pointing this out! I’ll and an addendum to the post. The overall point of the review though, that the app is an abridged version of what you find via Access medicine, still holds true. And the Access Medicine version can be accessed via the iPhone if you’re in a academic setting or private practice with an Access Medicine subscription.

  8. Sajaia February 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm #


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