by: Dr. Philip Xiu, MB BChir (Cantab)

The ECG is a critical tool in the practice of medicine – a low-cost but high yield test that can tell us a lot about a patient. It is also a challenging test for physicians (and physicians in training) to master, to take a set of lines on a piece of paper, correlate it to different anatomic surfaces, and then interpret the size, shape, and length of every deflection. That is why iMedicalApps recently released a series reviewing the ECG apps available for the iPhone, crowning the ECG Guide by QxMD as the best in the field. Here, we see if QxMD was able to find the same level of success with ECG Guide for Blackberry.

Opening up the ECG guide, we can see a list of topics that will not be out of place in an ECG textbook (above). Each main topic is expandable to reveal all the possible subtopics.

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The diagrams are nicely spread out and help with conceptualizing this otherwise rather dry topic.

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An extremely useful function that should really be provided in other apps, is the continuation link at the bottom of each sub-topic. Since the ECG guide is likened to a book, the link helps to continue the story rather than break the storyline.

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The most important thing in the app is the number and quality of ECG monograpahs. It has over 200 high quality ECGs, and the BlackBerry app allows you to zoom in at 5 times the resolution. The first picture below is the default size. The second picture is on maximum zoom.

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The number of ECGs become evident when you compare different ECGs on one particular subtopic such as 1st degree AV block. It demonstrates multiple ECGs on a variation, each with individual teaching points. This is unique, as most often books will have the bare basics and will not usually delve deeper than 1 or 2 examples at a stretch (presumably due to page limitations). This allows the user to appreciate the subtlety of each ECG monograph and condition.

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Another extremely useful function is the quiz function. It showcases all the ECGs from the image bank in random order, allowing the user to view the images and describe the ECG as if in a real life situation before seeing the answers.

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Sadly, the ECGs do not come with annotations explicitly displaying an anomaly. This can become frustrating when one cannot isolate the abnormality after a few goes.

Pricing and technicals:

  • $9.99 on the Blackberry
  • $0.99 on the iPhone. Yes, that’s not a typo.

Likes:

  • Over 200 ECG monographs, more than some dedicated ECG books.
  • While learning and revising ECG monographs are all fun and games, at the end of the day once you have read all the content in an app it does become duller the next time you use it. QxMed, by adding in a quiz featuring random ECGs, kept the relevance of the app high in my mind.

Dislikes/possible future updates:

  • Lack of management algorithms which summarize everything succinctly.
  • The rather disproportionate pricing structure between the iPhone and the Blackberry is probably one of the main reasons as to why medical apps for the Blackberry are less popular.
  • Whilst $0.99 is a very reasonable price for an app, $9.99 feels as if it is daylight robbery.
  • More importantly, whereas the iPhone is version 4.4, the latest version on Blackberry App World is 1.0. In version 4.4 they have addressed the multiple choice quizzes.
  • If the quiz can have MCQ options for giving answers, it would be so much more useful for exam preparation.

Conclusion:

  • If you don’t mind the price tag, this app is ideal for any student or junior residents who want a quick crash course in ECG learning.
  • The quiz provides valuable learning points.

Blackberry Link