One of the new segments we’re starting on the site is mentioning iPhone and iPad medical applications that were released during the past week that are worth checking out.
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).
Skyscape has ported over their base application, Skyscape Medical Resources, to the iPad – and now you can enjoy your Skyscape apps on the full screen of the iPad.
Lexi-Comp was the first major medical reference app company to take the leap into the iPad, and now the question remains, where is Epocrates, and why are they taking so long? But before we go into that, lets talk about how this Skyscape app looks on the iPad.
Currently, Skyscape is not yet utilizing the double panel screen that enhances the user experience on the iPad – they are basically using the extra space to display more text – but according to the description of their iPad update, specific functionality custom made for the iPad is coming very soon. (read more)
David Kibbe, MD recently penned a detailed post on the basics of the NHIN Direct project titled “Getting to the Health Internet” . It is great reading and I highly recommend it. Below are a few of the points I found the most interesting.
NHIN Direct is a project within the federal Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to develop protocols for streamlined and secure internet communication among physicians and hospitals. Think of it like email for health records. Physicians should be interested in NHIN Direct because it has the the potential to open up electronic health records to new kinds of innovation. (read more)
Here we review the free version of the Kaplan Step 1 QBank App from Kaplan in conjunction with TakeFiveLabs, which features 100 free high-yield USMLE-like questions from Kaplan Medical. One important note though is that this release is as a stand-alone app unable to integrate with existing Qbank accounts. In other words, the 100 questions featured in this app are separate from the existing Kaplan Qbank set. This app was released in March as a “test” to generate feedback and guide development of a full version of the Kaplan Qbank app (which is underway with the positive feedback they have received so far from this app), and all indications are that it will be compatible with existing Qbank accounts.
Although the Qbank features Kaplan Medical content, it is powered by TakeFiveLabs – “systems engineers at the intersection of design, media, and technology.” TakeFiveLabs dabbles in a variety of projects as it “seeks new ways to improve the human-computer experience”, and has developed other apps including MyCalmBeat, What’s Invasive, Twitflick, and GMAT preparation. Though TakeFiveLabs may represent a young and innovative enterprise, the TakeFiveLabs library appears to include solid, well-reviewed, respected apps. And they definitely seem to be on the right path with this app. (read more)
Preface: As many of our readers remember, Palm was a pioneer in mobile computing that captured the attention of many physicians with applications like Epocrates almost a decade ago, long before Apple’s iPhone was even conceived. It subsequently faltered and, despite a short lived renaissance with the Palm Pre with its highly regarded WebOS mobile operating system, Palm fell too far behind to survive as an independent company and was recently sold to HP.
In this post, guest blogger Dr. Saria Saccocio humorously reminisces about the loyalty many early adopters had for Palm and the disappointment that followed it. Saria Saccocio M.D. is Associate Director of the Family Medicine residency program at Floyd Medical Center in Georgia.
I will miss you Palm, my very best friend in medical school. You made me look so smart hanging out in my white coat pocket, giving me all the answers for medication choices, their adverse effects, contraindications, and cost to my patients. Gone were the days of overflowing white coat pockets with books for everything from medical calculations to ECG guides. You were my first peripheral brain, with everything I needed in one heavy pocket. (read more)
Update: Per reader requests, we’ve made direct links to the pictures in this article now, so they should show up full screen with only one click now
If you have an iPad, iAnnotate PDF is almost a must have application for healthcare professionals and students. I’ll explain the almost part later.
No matter where you are in your career in medicine, you’re reading PDF files constantly – it’s what keeps your evidence based clinical skills up to date. And as we all know, PDF files aren’t exactly optimized for the iPhone or other mobile devices. Rather, the two column appearance that dominates journal layouts is displayed horribly on mobile devices.
When the iPad was first released, I was looking forward to a host of medical applications, but unfortunately, most developers have been slow to convert their medical apps to the iPad format. I’ve documented the show transition in prior posts. But PDF viewing apps such as Papers, GoodReader, and now iAnnotate have not disappointed – and were quickly released with the iPad in mind.
With the iPad’s larger real estate, I knew viewing PDF files would be significantly easier, but I didn’t know how much I could do with them until I tried iAnnotate PDF. This app allows you to annotate in ways you couldn’t even do if you had a paper version of literature with pens and highlighters. However, it does have some flaws that we’ll get into later in the review.
I was going to list the different types of annotation you can do with this app, but you almost have to ask yourself what this application can’t do. All the annotating is done with your fingers and keyboard, and in true Apple form, the capacitive touch screen is extremely accurate and is a huge asset for this application.
Key annotation features [Picture is shown for each feature]:
*Highlighting: This is done with ease by dragging your finger across text. I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth this feature is.
*Hand Writing: As you can see by the writing skills showcased, you probably want to use a Pogo stick – stylus for the iPad – if you really want to use this feature. Handwriting on the iPad’s screen is fun, but using your fingers to write a short note is difficult and too cumbersome without a stylus like accessory.
*Comments: This feature is done extremely well. You can put a comment box anywhere on the PDF, and once you’re done, you can collapse the comment box, or you can choose to leave it open. The collapsing feature prevents clutter within your PDF, while also giving you the ability to recall key notes.
*Lines: You can use the ruler tab to form straight lines. This can be useful to highlight key tables, graphs, or paragraphs. Or for making random boxes just for fun, as I’ve shown below.
*Underlining and Crossing out: There isn’t really a need for the crossing out feature if you’re reviewing literature, but the underlying feature is definitely useful. Again, I got the same reaction with this feature as I did with highlighting – it’s extremely easy and smooth to do. Just drag your finger across the text you want to underline [below picture is in portrait mode]
There are other things this app can do as well, but these are the main features I found useful when reading medical literature on this app. If you want to see other features explained in more detail view the video we have attached at the end of this post.
Transferring Files onto and from your iPad:
The achilles heel of this application is clearly transferring files. The developers offer a program you can download onto your computer that enables you to sync to your iPad with your computer via your Wi-Fi connection. But, if you have a hospital issued laptop with extra layers of security, the application might not work – it didn’t for me. If you don’t have the extra layers of security, you should be able to get your PDF files into the application with ease. I had to use another laptop to do this, but even then, there were a few PDF files that the iAnnotate PDF app wasn’t able to upload [almost all the files were uploaded easily].
The developers actually have a pretty robust forums section on their website that is useful in guiding you with file transferring issues. However, you shouldn’t have to spend half an hour or more trying to figure out how to get PDF files onto your iPad – you could have read a few clinical guideline PDFs in that time. Another way to get files into the app is to view them in safari or your mail, where an option to view the file in iAnnotate pops up.
We e-mailed the developers about the connectivity issues we were having, and they have assured us that better file transfer options are coming very soon.
What I liked:
*Extremely powerful annotation features: Highlighting, Underlining, Crossing out, Comments, and more. Each of these features is done really well, and is fun to use.
*Ability to have more than one PDF file opened at a time, the “tab” feature – similar to using a web browser. This feature is great if you’re trying to read multiple PDF files at the same time or are referencing information in multiple files simultaneously.
*You can customize how the toolbar is displayed, and the toolbar is displayed in both portrait and landscape mode.
What I didn’t like:
*Transferring files can be an issue – as mentioned above.
*No clear method on how to move annotated files back onto your computer. We’ve been told updates will resolve this.
Once the developers of iAnnotate PDF figure out alternate methods to upload PDF files into the app, this will become a must have application for medical professionals. The type of annotating you can do with this app is actually fun – and makes reading medical literature that can sometimes be bland a bit more exciting. Per the iTunes description, the app is currently on sale for a limited time at $6.99, and at this price, the iMedicalApps team definitely recommends it – even with the issues that can arise for some users.
Note: We’ll be reviewing other PDF viewers (Papers and Goodreader) for the iPad soon, so stay tuned.
Video of the App in action[developers video]:
Guest Post by: Olivier Forget, industry insider, and developer of mobile medical software.
Back in 2008 I created a “web-app designed for iPhone”, as Apple puts it, to let medical residents view their schedules on MedRez.net using their iPhones. I did this by following Apple’s instructions. I could have created a native app and offered it in the App Store, but it seemed unnecessarily complicated and I wanted to do something quickly. The web-app has nicely formatted pages that fit just right on the iPhone’s small screen and mimics some of the device’s native look and feel. I submitted it to their web-app directory and they gave it a “staff-pick” for the day. Recently I bought a Motorola Droid which runs Google’s Android mobile operating system, now a major competitor to the iPhone. Imagine my surprise when I tried viewing MedRez.net‘s iPhone web-app on the Droid and it displayed… perfectly!
You have to understand that, as a web-app developer, I spend countless hours pulling my hair out trying to get my desktop web-app to work on everything from Microsoft Internet Explorer version 6, a museum piece of a browser, to Google’s Chrome web browser, the leanest, meanest web surfing machine out there. So when two competing mobile platforms display my mobile app just right without me even trying, I find myself looking for hidden cameras. This is a trick, right?
As part of our coverage of HIMSS 2010, we had the opportunity to check out a series of apps being introduced by Nuance Communications. Physicians who are familiar with Nuance generally know them as a company that provides dictation services. What many physicians may not know is that Nuance has some of the most advanced speech recognition technology on the market and ambitions that go well beyond transcribing dictation summaries and clinic visits.
In Atlanta, they announced Medical Mobile Search and Medical Mobile Recorder, in addition to the Dragon Medical Mobile dictation iPhone app. These two apps were essentially voice-enabled search, with the former searching a variety of medical databases for reference information and the latter searching previous recordings for patient names. What these apps tell us is that Nuance’s aim is to move beyond clicks and taps, and allow users to interact with computers through voice. And a recent announcement from Nuance and T-Mobile suggests that Nuance could be bringing much more to the medical world.
When I recently walked into my local Apple store to buy an iPad accessory, I saw a group of about 20 people huddled around a large LCD screen while an Apple employee was giving a workshop.
When I saw the LCD screen full of medical applications (picture on the left), I was shocked. This wasn’t your run of the mill “how to use your iPhone” workshop.
The people gathered for the workshop consisted of healthcare professionals in medicine, dentistry, and other fields. About a third of the group consisted of physicians.
The workshop was focused on how the iPhone and iPad can be useful for their practices and as reference tools for day to day work.
The workshop was led by an Apple employee who went through a slideshow presentation of useful medical applications, such as epocrates, iMurmur, Airstrips OB, and many of the other useful applications we’ve featured on iMedicalApps before. (read more)
One of the most frequently used benefits to my EMRA (Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association) membership is the always handy, EMRA Antibiotic guide (which they sell on their website for $25.95).
It is often the only thing on me besides a stethoscope and my pen while I’m working an ED shift. Its pocket size, common sense organization (color coded pages by alphabetized organ systems) and ease of use make it a trusted reference of physicians both in and out of Emergency Medicine.
As small as the pocket guide is however (96, 4” x 6” pages), the idea of having an iPhone version and eliminating one more thing from my pockets excites me. Add in search functionality, and I figured we had a keeper. Not only that, but the fact that the iPhone app costs 10 dollars less than the physical text (available for 15.99 from the App Store) made this an app we had to check out.
Follow along to find out what we liked, what we didn’t, and if this should be an addition to your app library as well.
Storm clouds continue to gather in the Apple-Adobe feud over Flash and recent reports suggest it could get even worse. Reports are surfacing that they Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are in discussions over opening an inquiry into the recent changes to the iPhone OS developer license agreement. As we discussed previously, these changes basically kill Flash on the iPhone OS, thus including both the iPhone and iPad. We’ve talked previously about our excitement over the numerous emerging web-based electronic health records such as CareCloud and Practice Fusion. With news from Adobe of plans to include a “Packager for iPhone” in the latest development kit, we were definitely excited that these electronic health records would be ready to go on the iPad. But it looks like those dreams have ended.
As the folks over at PC World are quick to point out, we are right now in the “rumor” stage that an inquiry – not a full scale investigation – may occur. Even so, Apple’s legal team is certainly revving up for a fight. But, at least when it comes to medicine, this is a fight they may be better of losing.