Google’s smartphone operating system – Android – has been around for well over a year, yet the marketplace continues to lag behind Apple’s App Store with its meager collection of useful medical apps.  The biggest player in mobile medical reference software is now changing this perception.  Today Epocrates announced the availability of a free beta version, Epocrates Rx, for the Android platform, officially making it an android medical app. [We recently did a full review of Epocrates, including Epocrates Rx, for the iPhone].

This is exciting news for health care professionals who have Android phones – because their numbers are growing.  Google recently announced 60,000 Android handsets are shipping each day, coming out to 5.4 million handsets per quarter.  As a reference, Apple sold 8.7 million iPhones last quarter.

With this proliferation of Android phones, especially the Droid and Nexus One, many in the medical field can now feel more confident in buying the Droid or Nexus One.  That’s how big of an affect Epocrates has.  Almost one million healthcare professionals rely on Epocrates as a medical reference, and for most who have smartphones, its the first app we download.  I’ve had multiple friends with Android phones they love, but their only complaint is they don’t have Epocrates – not anymore.

Epocrates is taking a similar approach to releasing the software as they did for the iPhone: release a free beta version, Epocrates Rx, and then release the premium versions later this year.  Our guess is the premium versions will mimic the ones available for the iPhone, Epocrates Rx Pro, Epocrates Essentials, Epocrates Essentials Deluxe.  In our review we take a look at the features included in each of these versions.

There is one issue many Android users might gripe about: You need a device with Android v1.6 or higher.  If you bought an Android phone even a few months ago, there is a chance you might have Android v1.5.  This issue is one we’ve highlighted in the past, the lack of compatibility with different versions of Android.

Here are some details on the free Android version of Epocrates Rx.

Features:

  • Drug Information – Ability to access thousands of brand and generic drugs, with indications, contraindications, retail pricing, mechanism of action, and lots more
  • Pill ID – Identify a drug based on the color, shape, or imprint code
  • Drug Interactions – One of the most popular features Epocrates offers.  Can check the interactions for up to 30 drugs at a time, especially useful for your geriatric patients.  Hopefully they aren’t on 30 drugs though.
  • Tables and Calculators – Includes MedMath, a feature rich calculator we mentioned in our review of Epocrates.

Heads up: We’re going to do a full review of this Android version later this week.

Update: Palmdoc.net has a great article about how Epocrates for WebOS is coming “real soon”. [Web OS = think Palm Pre]