By: Tom Lewis, MSII

As Sir William Osler, one of the fathers of modern American medicine, said, “The primary work of a professor of medicine in a medical school is in the wards, teaching his pupils how to deal with patients and their diseases.” And the most important component of interacting with patients to clinicians like Osler was the physical exam. We can all certainly recall the first time we used our stethoscopes to diagnose valvular disease, palpated the swollen lymph node that lead to a diagnosis of cancer, and so on.

Physical Exams Essentials is designed to recap key point of practical examination for medical students and junior clinicians. This application contains a list of practical examinations complete with clinical presentations that help diagnose relevant common pathology. The app is designed to help physicians in training develop the skills that some would argue are being lost in modern medicine, and does so quite well.

Physical Exam Essentials is not a comprehensive medical reference. Rather, it is a handy overview resource that is perfect for medical students, pre-meds, health professionals and anyone who practices or has an interest in medicine. Conveniently located on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, this application provides quick, easy-to-use reviews of procedures and techniques for 14 different categories

This application has a clear layout and simple structure ensuring appropriate information can be found quickly. The title page covers the majority of common physical examination techniques as well as containing links to the developer’s other products. One point to note is that the developer has inexplicably decided to omit a musculoskeletal examination from this application. This omission limits an otherwise complete set of common physical examinations.

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Important information such as Clinical Correlations, Special Tests, and Presentation Tips are consistently color coded throughout the application. This helps to highlight key points relevant to the specific examination. Another helpful feature are the weblinks which allow the user to search Google, Google Images or Wikipedia for the particular term.

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The images used throughout the application are clear and closely related to accompanying text. This helps to illustrate practical examination skills. The images and color coding make the sections easily accessible for medical students and clinicians.

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A drawback is the inconsistent level of detail between different practical examinations. For example, the cranial nerves examination is very brief and does not include the same detail regarding pathology or common clinical presentations. The level of detail in this application is certainly very limited in comparison to a clinical skills textbook; however this application is perfect for recapping the key clinical points of any examination.  I found that this application was informative and clear with a simple structure. Although this is not a universal application, there are versions available for both iPhone and iPad.


  • Key clinical information is color coded
  • Content is concise with relevant pathology
  • Straightforward easy to use application


  • Inconsistent level of detail between different physical examination
  • No information provided for musculoskeletal examinations
  • Sometimes detail is lacking from certain examinations

Overall Rating:

  • This is a useful application for medical students who need appropriate information about simple physical examinations.
  • This application is no replacement for a clinical skills textbook but it is helpful in providing a brief summary related to a specific examination whilst out on the wards.

iTunes link: (here)