By: Philip Xiu (Medical Student at the University Of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine)

This review will cover the Epocrates Essentials app for the BlackBerry, costing $159/year, making it one of the most expensive medical apps for the BlackBerry.  Due to the dominance of Epocrates in the mobile arena, my expectations were high.

I have been field testing this software for over one month, at the frontline, using it during ward rounds, during revision, and looking up reference values. Overall, Epocrates did not disappoint.

Epocrates Essentials is written by a panel of medical editors, with frequent reviews. Indeed some of the diagrams are taken from the British Medical Journal image bank.

Examples of Use

There is a comprehensive search function available, allowing you to search in Drugs (Rx), Diseases (Dx), Lab tests (Lab), Infectious Diseases (ID), Calculations (Calc), Tables and protocols (Tables).  For example, if I am looking up Atrial Fibrillation, I can type in the search word and Essentials instantly searches on the go, before finishing the typed word, much like Google (example is shown in above picture).  This instant search is especially helpful when when the attending is breathing down your neck waiting for an answer!

Once I click on acute atrial fibrillation, I get to the “Highlights” page, which is a quick summary of the disease in a couple of sentences. To get more details of a disease pathology, including the histopathology, you need to click on the basics tab.

The Basics tab is anything but basic.  It contains a detailed and easily readable summary of the topic, which is ideal for quick revision between patients. This is not as detailed as the Skyscape app, and I could not find references for the content. However despite this, the section still contains very useful information.

One huge advantage of this app over Skyscape or Medscape is when I click on a link, the app doesn’t just link to a different page with the information, it has a popup which contains tailored information. This tailored information is extremely useful when trying to find a key fact, which may have otherwise been obscured in a standard monograph.

The tests are categorized in terms of initial tests, tests to consider, and emerging tests. If you click on the tests themselves, you actually get a popup which lists the possible results you get with the disease and why this is so.


One thing that makes the Epocrates app stand out from its competitors is the option of viewing high quality diagrams, which come from the BMJ Group, publishers of the British Medical Journal. In this case, the ECG is too small to view properly on the BlackBerry, but it works beautifully for some full colour pathology images. This is especially true of dermatology images! Not all disease sections have diagrams, but for those that do, the pictures are extremely useful.

Treatment options are also available. The treatment options link straight to the drug monographs.  A type of section rare to find in the other available apps is “follow-up and patient instructions”, very useful.