by: Philip Xiu, MB BChir (Cantab)
I was educated in Cambridge University and it does pain me to say this – the Oxford Handbook of Clinical medicine (also affectionately known as the “cheese and onion” for its distinctive steatorrhoeic yellow and bilious green colour scheme) is probably the single best book I have ever bought in medicine.
As a medical student, it has nurtured me in clinical medicine. From investigations and management to learning about radiology, everything you need as a junior resident is contained in this little book which fits snugly into your pockets. Even now, I still refer to it when my mind goes blank at night time and coffee fails to revive it.
As we’ve often seen though, great handbooks and other texts don’t make the jump to mobile equally well. Whether the Oxford Handbook translates well into an app format is something we are here to find out.
To access the book’s contents, you can either browse through the chapters themselves or use the search function.
Going through the book chapters gives you access to the book as it was meant by the authors. The level of detail is superb, containing references for future reading and up-to-date management plans.
Split into very readable subsections the chapters are detailed enough for you to be able to review for for an exam (e.g. USMLE Step 2, of medical school finals), but also concise enough for you to refresh your memory during ward rounds of some detail that has escaped your mind.
There is also a link for external references that you can click which will link to the Pubmed article directly.
I preferred the search engine myself, since it brought up everything in the book about that disease from the index.
One challenge though was to wade through the masses of hyperlinks to find the information I was looking for. More often than not, the “see section” would point to a small subsection that would have the most tangential of relevance to the subject matter. I would be much more happy if the app authors listed the “see sections” in order of relevance.
Another strength of the app is that the images are high quality, especially radiological images, which in some other apps may be lacking. Whereas other apps (Skyscape) rely on an active 3G connection for images, OHCM has all the images pre-installed, meaning that images can be brought up even in those deadspots around the hospital.
I loved the quirky asides and random quotes that seem to be interspersed throughout the book. These make for light comfort and are treasures to be dug up during the course of exploring the book, each one filled with good advice distilled from the combined clinical experiences of the 15 previous authors.
Pricing and technicals:
- $49.99 for this app.
- One disadvantage is that this app is actually more expensive than the book itself.
- The medical student will have to weigh heavily whether they want portability rather than reading the OHCM from a book format.
- I loved the quirky quotes and asides, which from time to time lightens the tone of the book, an otherwise very dense text.
- A familiar text in an unfamiliar environment, the trusty OHCM’s advice will now be with you in your Blackberry without having bulging pockets.
Dislikes/possible future updates:
- Lack of management algorithms which summarize everything succinctly.
- The OHCM app is based upon MedHand’s book reading system, which is a glorified e-book reader.
- The OHCM has not been designed from the ground up as an app (unlike Epocrates or 5 Minute Clinical Consult), and the difference shows in ease of browsing.
- The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine has been a powerhouse of medical education in the UK and around the world for the last 20 years.
- The transition into an app format was successful but could certainly be better with an app more optimized for the capabilities of the device.
- OHCM is certainly a valuable resource to have at your disposable – for many, the question will be whether the price premium is worth it to shed the weight of the handbook.