The number one downloaded medical app for the iPhone – Medscape [App Review]

Here we review the Medscape iPhone medical app, the number one downloaded medical app since August 2009 – when they claimed the throne from Epocrates. The Medscape app is developed by WebMD, obviously a well-regarded and trustworthy source for medical news and content.

We first reviewed the Medscape app when it launched in July 2009, but here we offer a more extensive review that covers the newer Medscape 2.1 version – the 2.0 update brought huge updates that made this application number one in our top 10 medical apps list.

As for the app itself, the home screen features a search function, medical news, sections for Drugs, Diseases & Conditions, Clinical Procedures, a drug Interaction Checker, and a bottom bar with more functions.

The news that appears here is in the specialty one used when initially logging in with an account (here for Internal Medicine, but the user can easily change this, as discussed later in this review).

Moreover, the app allows the user to configure this bottom bar on the home screen with one’s more used functions (and stack the rest under the “More” button):

Back at the home screen, the search function facilitates a search of all sections – drugs, diseases, procedures (below). The tabs near the top can allow for a focused search on just one of these entities, if desired.

 

The diseases, conditions, and procedures featured in this app number over 3,200, and are enhanced with images (over 2,500) and videos (over 150). In this example, we bring up the “Paracentesis” procedure, which features a bevy of sections as shown below. Unfortunately, navigation between sections requires returning to the disease topic main page.

 

Here, the “Positioning” section features one of the high-quality aforementioned images (shown below).

Likewise, the user can search for medications from this same main search function, or conduct a focused search on medications. Medscape’s trademark drug reference and interaction checker includes over 7,000 brand, generic, over-the-counter, herbal, and supplement medications. To our knowledge, it is still the fastest and most comprehensive method of checking medication dosages, pricing, and interactions. Also, it features the ability to search by drug or by drug class.

Moreover, by clicking on the Drugs section from the home screen, users can access an organ system (like cardiovascular) and then select a drug class (like ACE-inhibitors) to then choose a medication, such as captopril, shown below.

 

For a given medication like captopril (shown below), the app displays other names, drug class, sections for dosing, interactions, adverse effects, contraindications, pregnancy/lactation information, brand and cost information, and pharmacology, and an option to add the medication to the interaction checker.

For example, here is the section on Adult Dosing for captopril. Notice the dosages by dosage form and drug indication.

As for Medscape’s calling card –the Drug Interaction Checker—users can input up to 30 entries at once to check interactions (shown below).

In this example, we add warfarin, valproic acid, and phenytoin (three medications notorious for their interactions with other drugs), and click “View Interactions:”

Not surprisingly, we find 7 interactions between these medications, organized in sections from “significant + monitor closely” to “mild.”

Other functions of the Medscape app include those situated along the bottom bar, including news, CME, and a directory. The Medical News and CME functions (shown below) present breaking news or CME in your chosen specialty (here, Internal Medicine), but are easily changed to other fields via the “Change” button in the top right corner of the screens.

The Directory function (shown below) includes over 400,000 physicians, 57,000 pharmacies, and 6,000 hospitals across the US. Moreover, it features the ability to e-mail contact and location information to a colleague/patient.

In summary, the Medscape app from WebMD represents a tool with powerful clinical potential for almost any healthcare professional. Starting with its rapid and unmatched drug reference and interaction checker (which are infinitely useful in almost all clinical settings), and extending through its newer and less refined Diseases & Conditions, Clinical Procedures, Medical News and CME, and Directory references and functions, the Medscape app comes in handy virtually every day for me when I am on service. Even if only for its drug reference and interaction checker, it represents a formidable resource for daily use in patient care.

Pricing: The Medscape App is free!

Likes:

  • Multimedia enhancement (images, videos) of many of the diseases/conditions/clinical procedures
  • Pricing: such an extensive medical app for free? Wow!
  • THE quickest and most comprehensive way to check medication dosages/pricing/interactions

Dislikes/Future Updates I’d Love to See:

  • App requires registration with Medscape with various information necessary (though it’s just a one-time registration on initially accessing the app)
  • All search content resets when user exits the app
  • When browsing information on diseases or drugs, user has to go back to the original topic or drug screen to navigate to a different section—too many clicks! Consider displaying entire exploration of disease/drug on one screen
  • Though 3,200 strong, the diseases/conditions section does not appear to be entirely comprehensive—would appreciate a continuing effort to build it through subsequent versions of the app

Conclusion:

Simply put, there’s no cleaner or faster way to look up medications and drug interactions than the Medscape app from WebMD. Add on the fact that the app is FREE, and that WebMD has made admirable efforts to include a diseases/conditions reference, CME/medical news sections, and a directory, and this app is a MUST-HAVE for clinical training or practice.

[itunes]

[website]

Author:

Amit Patel, MD

11 Responses to The number one downloaded medical app for the iPhone – Medscape [App Review]

  1. David Yett June 2, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Thank you for your thoughtful review. We’ve been very pleased with the warm reception our app has had in the health care professional community and will continue to improve the application based on feedback like yours.

    Regarding your ‘wish list’, in release 2.1 in late April we simplified the in-app registration process and even added a Test Drive option that allows members to check it out for a day without even having to register. You are correct that it’s a one-time registration/login and it only takes about 30 seconds. By the way, we tailor the application experience based on the member’s specialty. For example, a great new feature in version 2.1 is a home screen alert that displays a headline for the top news story in the member’s specialty (as selected by our editorial team).

    Am not sure what you mean by ‘all search content resets when user exits the app’. Can you clarify?

    Your suggestion to display the entire drug or condition monograph on one screen is interesting. However, there’s a lot of data in these monographs and if we were to do this, users would have to scroll through 10 to 20 pages of content. Maybe not the optimal mobile experience. However, we are looking at ways to improve the ability to move among the sections of a monograph to reduce the clicks. Speed to load and find information in the app is a guiding design principle.

    Your wish that we continue to build the clinical reference is already underway. We release free monthly data updates that take just 2 – 5 minutes to install over the air (EDGE, 3G, or Wi-fi). These data updates include the latest drugs as well as new or updated clinical reference topics. In the last 3 months the clinical reference has grown to over 3,500 topics with a special focus on new topics in pediatrics, plastic surgery, and clinical procedures.

    Thanks again – David Yett, Medscape Product Management

    PS – We welcome all Medscape users to send their questions or suggestions to MedscapeMobileFeedback@webmd.net.

  2. Arno June 18, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    Great for Canadian drug content, something Epocrates doesn’t offer.

    • Iltifat Husain June 19, 2010 at 3:42 am #

      Really?! I’m surprised to hear that. I would think epocrates would
      have a “canadian” edition for detailed drug content. I guess not?

  3. sb August 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    Does it require internet connection to access the data?

    • David Yett August 23, 2010 at 10:43 am #

      The drug reference, clinical reference and interaction checker all work without an internet connection. So they work great on an iPod touch. You’ll just need to have Wi-fi on at some point during the month to get the monthly updates (to keep the content current). News, CME, and Health Directory require that you have an Internet connection (can be wi-fi) to download the stories. With News stories to your Saved list for reading them without an Internet connection at a later time.

  4. Drmedicine605 August 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    it was good when I started using it. Now I am looking for an alternative, since it simply requires internet to access data, even to access some very basic diseases.

  5. Belal August 31, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Guys I wana test the app on my Lap, before I buy the iPad esp. for it, how can I do so ? -iPad are expensive here in Egypt!

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