Musculoskeletal problems are very common in medicine, making up a large portion of visits to family physicians and emergency departments.  Given how short visits are, it is often quite difficult for a physician to adequately educate patients about their condition.  Basic terminology such as “ligament”, “rotator cuff” or “bursitis” are often not well-understood by the general public, and thus confusion may persist even after the physician has explained the diagnosis.

Shoulder Decide, available as separate iPhone and iPad apps, sets out to ameliorate this situation by educating patients about common shoulder problems. If I were to describe the app with one word, it would be “beautiful.” And that design factor, in addition to well-selected content, make this app a great asset to improve patient-physician communication.

Upon opening the app, users are treated to a 3D animated introduction that looks amazing.  For the most part, the iPhone and iPad apps contain the exact same content, but everything simply looks better on the iPad’s larger screen.  Upon reaching the start screen, it is immediately apparent that the iPad version’s horizontal layout is much more spacious, with the iPhone version’s icons taking up a significant portion of the vertically oriented screen.

After opening the anatomy section, one is treated to a nice 3D model of the bony anatomy of the shoulder.  Swiping the screen enables one to rotate the model in order to examine the shoulder from different angles.  There is the option to change the motion (i.e. from 360 rotation to a rowing motion) to allow examination of the shoulder in dynamic motion.  Annotations are available for labeling of the different structures, and one can toggle the different layers of the shoulder in order to view the superficial and deep layers.  Basic information about the shoulder educates patients about common injuries.



The “conditions” section allows users to pick from twelve common conditions affecting the shoulder.  Each condition has a 3D model that very clearly highlights the pathology.  Clicking on each condition allows one to access a number of radiologic and arthroscopic images, narrated videos of related arthroscopic surgeries, and a narrated information section that covers the condition’s basic information, symptoms, and associated recommendations.  In particular, I found the radiology images and narrated arthroscopic surgery videos to be quite illuminating, as many patients may not fully understand the surgery they are to undergo.  Although patients are unlikely to understand these videos on their own, it would be a great asset for a physician trying to explain a procedure to a patient.




As an added bonus, there is an option to share links to information on a condition.  The link includes the 3D model, radiology images, surgical video, and general disease information—all the content that the app provides.


Lastly, there is a section at the end that explains the role of the different musculoskeletal healthcare professionals, including the orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine physician, physical therapist, chiropractor, physiologist and massage therapist.  While many patients may have heard the names of these professions, many will not know the different scope of practice and different training that they have.  While this section could be expanded to include more professions such as kinesiologist (my previous life), occupational therapist, and athletic trainer, it is still a valuable section.  The app can also utilize the GPS on the iPad or iPhone to locate a nearby professional.


Shoulder Decide really is an excellent way to learn the basics of shoulder problems.  From the 3D models to surgical videos, the app is beautiful and functional.  The larger real estate of the iPad screen makes that version a joy to use, but the iPhone version contains the exact same content.  While this app is designed with patients in mind, physicians who frequently treat patients with shoulder problems will find this app to be a great educational tool.  For physicians, I would recommend the iPad version of the app due to the larger screen size which facilitates patient education.


  • 3D anatomy manipulation is an innovative way of teaching anatomy
  • Radiology images and narrated surgical videos help with obtaining informed consent
  • Slick and beautiful user interface makes the app a joy to use


  • Price may be fair for physicians, but may be a barrier to patients downloading the app


  • Shoulder Decide is a beautiful way to learn about shoulder problems.  While it is designed for patients, physicians will find it useful for patient education and obtaining informed consent.


$4.99 (iPad and iPhone versions)