Differential Diagnosis i-Pocket app provides to the point differentials, but with drawbacks

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By: Brian Wells, MSM, MPH

“Differential Diagnosis i-Pocket” is another variant on the differential diagnosis theme for apps. This application contains a list of hundreds of symptoms, diseases, and findings that help formulate a differential diagnosis.

On the surface, such an application would be a virtual treasure trove of information for a clinician, especially when packed into an easy-to-use mobile application. Of course, the real key is in the implementation.

Differential Diagnosis i-Pocket is described in iTunes:

  • The Differential Diagnosis pocket is a compact reference work that provides the basic foundation for formulating a thorough list of differential diagnosis.
  • Completely updated 2nd edition
  • Contains over 800 lists of symptoms, physical signs and abnormal findings (including laboratory tests)
  • Keywords listed in alphabetical order for easy access
  • An invaluable resource for medical students entering the clinical years and a great reference source for residents and other medical professionals
  • For students, residents, nurses and all other healthcare professionals.

The application is displayed in a simple style with most of the actions happening through the tab bar at the bottom of the app. Here, the user can access the home, the table of contents, search functions and links to the developer’s other products.

Home Menu TOCSearch BBi Tools

Differential diagnoses, the application’s key point, are arranged in simple lists based off the user’s selection, whether from the table of contents or from search.

Differential Diagnosis Differential Diagnosis 2

Beyond just a list of differential diagnoses, information on the disease is often provided as is etiology. For example, a search of Addison’s Disease returns information on adrenal cortical insufficiency as well as etiologies for primary and secondary causes.

Occasionally, one of the differential diagnoses will be highlighted in blue indicating a link. For example, acute abdominal pain in women gives pelvic inflammatory disease as a linked differential. When this occurs, the user can tap the link and be presented with additional information on that differential.

Strengths:

  • The application is very easy to use and understand.
  • The lists are laid out alphabetically and are searchable.
  • Bi-directional arrows are provided for navigation between topic headings and subtopics.
  • The differential diagnoses are typically extensive for each topic but are likely not complete for all topics.

Weaknesses:

  • Each time I use this app, I can’t help but feel that it is incomplete.
  • Firstly, it would be nice to organize the list by symptoms and disease, but this is a minor problem thanks to the search feature.
  • However, one feature that I think would make this app immensely more powerful would be the ability to select differentials from the list and drilldown on those.
  • Perhaps even another screen could be added with brief information on the differential and a way to differentiate among differentials.

For example, if I were to pick breast mass, differentials could be displayed in terms of common, such as fibroadenoma or breast abscess, and uncommon, such as Phylloides tumor. Selected differentials could then be chosen with information such as history, exam findings and treatment displayed for full comparison. This would make the app feel much more complete and be much more powerful.

Overall:

  • Overall, this application does what it advertises it can do.
  • It provides a differential diagnosis based on the user input. However, as previously stated, it does so in a way that makes the application feel incomplete.
  • For the application’s price of $9.99, I would expect at least hyperlinks to informational websites per disease or even a link to that disease’s differential diagnosis for all differentials. Neither of those features is found fully implemented in this application.
  • While this program will no doubt find use for those wanting a quick informational display, other users may find the program’s shortcomings frustrating in day-to-day use.

YouTube video review of the application:

iTunes Linkhttp://itunes.apple.com/us/app/differential-diagnosis-i-pocket/id345274160?mt=8#

Price: $9.99

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