Here we review the App version of the Color Atlas of Family Medicine, published by McGraw-Hill.  Edited by four family practitioners and an obstetrician-gynecologist, the Atlas is widely used by family practitioners, primary care residents, and students as a well-known visual guide for diagnosis.

In fact, an April 2009 JAMA review suggested that the Atlas represents a “classic example of why the Internet will try but never take the place of a well-written hardbound textbook.”

Somewhat ironically, here we suggest that the App version of the Atlas –available on the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad– not only replaces, but even surpasses, the hardbound 1108-page textbook version.

Several excerpts from the Preface to the Atlas (shown below) help illustrate the mission of the Atlas: to act as a comprehensive atlas assisting diagnosis and management of illnesses with visible manifestations, especially helpful for family medicine practitioners and trainees.

As for the app itself, the Color Atlas of Family Medicine App’s home screen offers options for “Browse,” “Search,” and “More Info:”

“Contents” and “Topic Index” offer two ways to conveniently browse the information contained in the App, allowing one to use it as a textbook.

Of course, the Search functions from the home screen allow for a potentially quick and convenient way to find images and information on a specific illness.  Of note, users can search either the text or the figures.  However, the search functions do not auto-search as users input each letter of text, but instead require clicking the “Search” button after inputting text.  Also, incomplete search terms (like “ulce”) do not gather any results, though the complete term “ulcer” properly brings up many search results.  This nuance can lead to some difficulty when searching.

In any event, clicking on a chapter (in this example, Peptic Ulcer Disease) brings up thumbnails of the images relevant to the chapter, then a “Patient Story” that really helps link the images to a classic presentation of the illness (and refers to the images).  The Patient Story is followed by sections on Epidemiology, Etiology and Pathophysiology, Diagnosis (clinical features, typical distribution, laboratory studies, imaging), Differential Diagnosis, Management, Patient Education, and Follow-Up.  In short, each chapter represents a chock-full, 360-degrees description of the specific illness for learning purposes.

Here are two examples of the more than 1500 high-quality clinical images contained in the Atlas. As shown here, all of the images feature legends (or captions) and many have annotations.

Each chapter ends with sections dedicated to Patient Resources and Provider Resources (both with active WWW hyperlinks) as well as References (helpful for learning more on the topic):