By: Benjamin Pulley, MS 3

Like most of you with Android phones who are reading this, I love my phone. What I love even more is the exponential growth of the Android market over the past six months and the availability of apps to suit nearly any task that I require of my phone. However, one component of my daily life where I feel my Android phone becomes dead weight is in my white coat pocket.

Android users in the health care profession have surely realized the market lacks a good all-inclusive medical reference. I surveyed 10 interns and residents with the question: “If you could only have one reference material in your white coat pocket, what would it be”? Nine out of ten of them emphatically responded – the “Red Book”.

The “Red Book”, as you are probably aware, is published by the department of Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins (LWW). It’s essentially a “must have” for survival on the wards as a medical student or intern, and a fantastic source of reference as a resident. So initially, I was incredibly excited to install the “Red Book” app onto my Android phone and ready to ditch my little red binder.

We reviewed this app extensively for the iPhone and the user interface is largely unchanged from the iPhone app. The app is still included as a component of the larger Skyscape medical suite, and must be accessed through this route.

The purpose of this review is not to re-hash all the pros and cons addressed in the iPhone version of this app. The purpose is to help you decide if the electronic android version of this book ($41.95 yearly or $48.95 one time cost) can prevent you from carrying the venerable text version of this book in your white coat.

Please refer to the iPhone version app review for screen shots of this app – they are almost identical.

Thoughts:

Search function:

The single largest downfall of this app is the poorly designed search function. As mentioned in the iPhone review, the search tool for this app is a purely indexed search – meaning that when you enter a word or phrase, it searches for that exact text in the index of the app.

For example, if “GI blood loss” is entered into the search bar there are no results in app. However, when I enter “gastrointestinal bleeding” into the search bar, I am linked directly to the chapter and section with details about this problem.

The creators of this app need to make this a “keyword” or “related items” search so one can search for things like you would in Google. In a hurry, there’s no time to think of the exact wording that might be found in the index. In fact, I often found myself simply “Googling” a keyword in my phone’s browser rather than dealing with the finicky search function within this app.

Skyscape integration:

Having this app integrated into the larger Skyscape suite of medical apps might seem like a positive, but I see it as a downfall. Skyscape has hundreds of different medical apps that can be loaded into the suite. The problem this creates is every time you want to access one of those apps, you have to open Skyscape first and sort through the potentially very long list of apps and select the one you want to use. You might be thinking, “well just make a home screen shortcut”. I thought the same thing – unfortunately, you can’t do this. You can only shortcut directly to Skyscape – causing you to open the app within Skyscape again.

To me, this is a big waste of time, especially on the wards when I need to access information quickly. In addition, when you use the search function in any of the Skyscape apps, it searches not only that specific app’s resources, but also all of the other apps that you have loaded into the suite. I didn’t find this very helpful and actually found that it muddied up the ability to effectively search for disease pathologies. I want a quick reference, not a list of multiple sources that could potentially answer my questions.

Table/algorithm layout:

Poor on-screen formatting is something I am not willing to deal with in an app I’m trying to replace a pocket textbook with. The major problem with this app’s layout is none of the tables or algorithm diagrams can be zoomed in or out. The view them, you must scroll right and left. It’s cumbersome, time-consuming, and overall, not an effective way to view a table or diagram. The text within the chapters is very readable and formatted to fit the screen perfectly, but this is not the case for any of the tables or diagrams.

Content

Great – not much else to say. The app contains almost all the crucial content found in the pocket medicine textbook.

Conclusion:

In review, the Pocket Medicine MGH Handbook is a staple reference text for medical professionals. The “little red binder” can be found in white coats across the country, and for now, the android version of this text on Skyscape won’t change that. The android version of this medical electronic text is not sufficient to replace the tangible pocket textbook.

This is primarily due to the cumbersome user interface. The textbook is easier to read, and most importantly, still quicker to use due to the issues with the search function of the app mentioned above. A new version of the app with an improved search function could change all this.

The general content remains incredible and the potential for a mind-blowing app is definitely there. If the search function and user interface can be improved – this app could definitely replace the text form, but for now, you’re better off with the hard copy of the pocket text reference.

Link to App description on Skyscape

Benjamin Pulley is a third year medical student at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine