By: Jason Paluzzi, MS3

There are many paid subscription medical apps on the Android market meant to be above and beyond the quality of free utilities and databases. The problem for the consumer is that these apps often cost between fifty to a hundred dollars each or more. How can one afford to get a high quality set of resources on their smartphone on a budget?

Unbound Medicine’s Medicine Central app attempts to fill this need by offering several paid subscription apps in one package. The collection includes 5-Minute Clinical Consult, A to Z Drug Facts, Drug Interaction Facts, Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests, and MEDLINE Journals. The app also features select topics from the 5-Minute Pediatrics database as well. Here, we’ll take a brief look at each resource and decide whether or not this is a comprehensive solution to the paid subscription problem.

5-Minute Clinical Consult

(See the iMedicalApps review of the Skyscape version here: Skyscape 5-minute Clinical Consult on the iPhone)

My Take: The most useful part of this app is by far the algorithms section. In it, you’ll find flowchart images for the management of hundreds of various signs and symptoms.

This is beneficial for both the medical student learning how to manage a new type of patient and the experienced physician who is presented with an unfamiliar problem. A huge shortcoming of this app is that it only features about 900 different medical conditions in its main database. In contrast, Medscape’s free app offering on the Android has over 3,500 different conditions in its database.

A to Z Drug Facts

A to Z Drug Facts is a database of about 4,500 medications with exhaustive information on each one. There isn’t much to say here, except that the amount of information you get on each drug appears to be far more than you would see on Epocrates or Medscape. However, at times it seems as though much of the information is beyond the scope of a quick reference app. Still, you couldn’t go wrong with this as your main drug reference. This database is larger than Epocrates (advertised at 3,500) but still falls short of Medscape (advertised at 7,000).

Drug Interaction Facts

This section of the app is a large list of medications where you check your selections and are presented with each specific interaction. One thing I really like about this interaction checker is the inclusion of various IV fluid formulations in its database, something I couldn’t find in Epocrates’ interaction checker. (Of note, iMedicalApps recently declared Medscape as the best free interaction checker.)

Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests

This app has a list of 350 common laboratory tests with information about collection, processing, analysis, results, and more. This is extremely useful for answering patients’ questions about what happens to their sample that physicians may not know offhand. It also has databases of how to monitor various therapeutic drugs, indications/contraindications and preparations for imaging, and microbiology tests for various organisms and infections. Most useful for the student or physician, however, is the database of labs and interpretations based on signs, symptoms, and presentations.

MEDLINE Journals

This section allows you to browse recent articles from American Family Physician, Annals of Internal Medicine, JAMA, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Each title links (eventually) to an online version of the article through your browser. As we’ve recently reviewed, NEJM offers their own app for viewing their content on the iPhone. It is still free for a limited time.

Pros:

*Multiple resources in one app
*The Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests offers fairly unique resources

Cons:

*Price
*Most of the databases can’t compare to free offerings

Price:

$159.95 for a 1 year subscription

Conclusion:

Is it staying on my phone? No

As is probably obvious from my review, Medicine Central has several databases which aren’t necessarily on par with free options that are currently available.  Of note, the “Drug Interaction Facts” and “A to Z Drug Facts” portion of the app are extremely comprehensive, and offer utility that is not necessarily seen on other subscription based apps.  While the Diagnostic Tests database, algorithm flowcharts, and MEDLINE Journals each have their own utility, its difficult for at least this reviewer to justify spending $159.95 a year for this subscription.  With Medscape releasing their app on the Android platform, there is a free solution for the majority of smartphone users that can replace many of the features of Medicine Central.

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.