By: Jason Paluzzi, MS3
The Recall series of texts has gotten a reputation around my medical school as the answer to 3rd year “pimp questions.”
For those who are unaware, these questions are the short, fast, medical trivia type question that attendings ask their students, and are often unanswerable without having encountered that particular piece of trivia.
With the already high-pressure environment of medical school, many students dread these question and answer sessions, while other students enjoy them as a chance to learn new factoids. Either way, there’s nothing more gratifying than nailing a pimp question on rounds or in the OR.
The most famous book in the Recall series is Surgical Recall. However, I don’t start my surgery clerkship until January, so in this review we’ll take a look at Medicine Recall. My goal was to see if I could quickly consult this app after writing my notes in the morning to be prepared for anything that came my way on rounds.
Users of skyscape’s medical application suite will be very familiar with the organization of the app. There are three different indices to organize the information. In the first, the Main Index, the user is given a list of every single item of interest in the Medicine Recall text, as well as a search bar at the top. This is the index that I’d expect to spend the most time on, as I can quickly look up any diagnosis, drug, lab test, or symptom that may be pertinent for my patients.
Selecting a subject will bring you to a list of questions, the scope of which varies depending on the topic selected. For example, choosing a common diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s disease will bring up a wealth of questions about the subject. These questions are usually quick-factoid in style; exactly what you would commonly encounter from an attending. However, choosing less common diseases/drugs or a physiological principle often brings you into a larger chapter, where only one question is pertinent to the subject. It seems fairly random in terms of whether you’ll get a set of questions on your subject or one question in the submenu of a larger subject.
That’s where the third view, Table of Contents, comes in. This is organized exactly like the paper version of the book, split up first by discipline (Cardiology, Neurology, etc.), and then by subject matter, many of which have further subdivisions. Choosing any of these brings up a subset of questions that pertains solely to the subject you selected. This is excellent for browsing the text for study purposes, or for reading up on a differential within an organ system.
These two methods of browsing information complement each other well. Each is not without its flaws, but since the issues with the Main Index are addressed in the Table of Contents and vice versa, it becomes much less of an issue. The third index, the Medication Index, is fairly self explanatory. With a list of every medication in the text and a search bar, it feels a little redundant, since you could search for a drug through the main index just as easily. This index may be more useful if the drugs were organized into groups according to indications and mechanism of action.
Because of the extreme portability of this app and its ease of use, I found it to be a strong performer up on the wards. Without weighing down my white coat like the (very large) text, I was able to give myself a quick quiz on each of my patients before rounds, and about 60% of questions asked on rounds were featured in the app. Considering a large portion of pimp questions are designed for students to not know the answer, I was quite pleased with this result. I’m told that Surgical Recall does an even better job at this, and I’m looking forward to bringing that review in the winter.
-Extreme portability: This app is great for quick referencing.
-Table of Contents: Organized just like the book, so you have a study view and a quick search
-Question Format: Short answer factoids that mirror what you’d expect on rounds.
Dislikes/Future updates I’d love to see:
-Each subject (drugs, diseases, physiology, etc) should have its own subset of questions devoted to it, rather than be featured as a footnote of another subject. While this is a daunting task, if I have a patient taking an obscure drug, you can bet I’m going to be pimped on it.
-There are “advanced” versions of the Recall texts. I would like to see the two versions integrated into one app.
Pricing: The Medicine Recall app has three pricing options; a 6 month subscription for $23.95, a 1 year subscription for $33.95, and a 1year standard option for $39.95. The standard option includes free content updates for a year and continued use of the app after the free update period. The subscriptions provide free new editions of the app during the subscription period, and auto-renews at the end of the subscription. The hardcopy is priced on amazon at $34.95, so all options are pretty fair. If you don’t think you’ll go into internal medicine, I would recommend getting the 6 month subscription at the start of your clerkship and cancel it before it renews. If this is the field for you, then the standard option is the way to go. I have a very difficult time finding a good reason to spend $33 dollars annually to read a textbook, however.
Conclusion: The Medicine Recall app is a highly portable resource for quick reference about a broad range of subjects. It is useful for on the fly trivia that can help a student stand out on their clerkships. I would recommend the Recall series to any smartphone user in their third or fourth year of medical school. It is certainly more effective than the comparatively large, cumbersome text. However, there are more intensive versions of these texts that are not yet in app form; it would be a good idea to browse through them in the bookstore to decide which version meets your level of interest/understanding.
Jason Paluzzi is a third year medical student with interests in neurosurgery, trauma, disaster response, and healthcare for the underserved. He recieved his undergraduate degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 2008.