[Ed: this review is for the “Lite” version. Please see the brief addendum at the conclusion referring the recently announced Blausen Human Atlas HD V3.0]

By Brian Wells, MS-3, MSM, MPH

Human anatomy. It’s one of the foundations of medicine and a necessity to any aspiring clinician to his or her mastery of the basic sciences. Blausen Human Atlas is an education tool to advance this mastery. Whether you are an experienced clinician, a sleep-deprived medical student, or an aspiring scholar in one of the other medically-related professions, you’ll find a lot to like in this application.

From the description in iTunes:

The Blausen English Human Atlas combines 3D medical animations in English with a cross searchable medical term glossary and detailed still images. For doctors, nurses, students and consumer caregivers, this is the ideal resource for communicating core concepts, right in the palm of your hand and right at point of care.

In its opening graphic, the Blausen Human Atlas gives you a picture of the information contained within. The opening page contains a 3D representation of a male human body that can be rotated left and right and zoomed in & out. Major blood vessels, organs, bones and selected muscles and lymph nodes are clearly visible in the 3D representation.

On this home screen, there are options for watching videos and browsing the glossary of conditions or anatomical parts. Please note that this application does require internet access via 3G or Wi-Fi. Normally, I do not prefer applications that are internet-only without at least the option of caching but it makes sense in this case as the space required to store all images and videos would not be a welcome tradeoff to using an internet connection.

As one can quickly see, the glossary contains a number of images about which to learn and view. The images are beautifully rendered and allow for touch pinch and zoom. However, for some items there are multiple images and the description does not change based on the image. This could be confusing for some since some images (such as those with the esophagus) incorporate surgical procedures yet the description tagged to the picture still only describes the anatomy. These images are also often stills captured from the video, not 3D renders and thus do not allow for rotation.

Several videos are available in the Lite version. However, the full version contains over 150 3D animations. In addition to the animations, the full version also has 3D rotatable renders of nine full body systems, a searchable 1,500+ term medical glossary and 1,200 still images from the animations.

In the application itself, other atlases are available for purchase. Each atlas listing provides a brief description as well as a link for in-app purchase. The Atlas also supports 12 languages, including Arabic, British, Castilian, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish.

Since this review covers the Lite version, a comparison cannot be made with other anatomy apps, such as the Netter Flash Cards (iTunes link) or Netter’s Anatomy Rohen’s Photographic Anatomy Flash Cards (iTunes link). Students looking to use this Atlas as a source of study material should consider the depth of content in the Atlas compared with their individual learning goals.

Blausen Human Atlas can also be used to help explain conditions to patients. Instead of just showing a few non-moving images and trying to verbally simplify the condition, the clinician can reference one of the many videos with its audio commentary to help the patient understand his or her condition. This could become a launching point for the patient to explore their concerns and ask questions, potentially improving the patient’s experience and rapport between the patient and clinician.

Conclusion

Overall, I was quite impressed by the clarity and ease of use of this application. If the quality in the Lite version is any indication of the full Atlas, I would say users are in for quite a treat. The animations are nicely rendered with appropriate commentary and the still images adequately convey information without being overly complex or over the top in their use of technology.

I would easily recommend users of the iOS platform to download the Lite version of the Atlas and see it in action. I think you’ll be impressed as well.

Video

Check out this brief video I made highlighting the features of Blausen Human Atlas Lite.

iTunes Links:

Testing Platform: This application was tested on a 32 GB iPhone 4 running iOS 4.0.1. Data access was provided over 802.11n Wi-Fi on a 17 Mbps/1 Mbps connection with a 24 ms ping as measured by Speedtest.net (http://www.speedtest.net).

Addendum

The folks at Blausen just informed us that version 3.0 of their iPad application has been announced. A video demo is available on their channel here. From the press release:

This latest version enables users to save individual animations directly to their iPad and play them when they wish, with no delay or waiting for videos to load. Developed internally by Houston-based Blausen, the new v3.0 version is fully optimized for performance on Apple’s new iPad tablet. It is a response to clinicians’ requests for a faster way to use the visually stunning Blausen content to educate their patients in office, exam room and bedside. In addition to the caching capability, the new app supports outputting of saved animation videos to external monitors to provide enhanced viewing opportunities.

It is available in the App store.