In the bygone years prior to the dawn of mobile devices, students and residents were sent into the intellectual battlefields that are the wards of the hospital, armed with little more than a stethoscope as their weapon, and a white coat as their armour.

While white coats don’t offer much protection against the sting of a preceptor’s difficult “pimp” questions or the weariness of frequent electrolyte abnormality pages, they do offer trainees a valuable commodity: pocket space.

Though we are now able to cram a virtually unlimited amount of information into our pockets via our mobile devices, just a few short years ago, pocket books and pocket cards were the weapons of choice. There were few weapons more efficient than a well-designed set of pocket cards; they were a potent combination of critical information presented in a compact package available for extremely quick reference.

But times change, and white coat real estate is increasingly occupied by mobile technology. I admittedly do find pocket cards to be quicker in terms of looking up critical information at times, but as one begins carrying multiple pocket cards, this speed advantage is lost. There is only a finite space available, and mobile devices are increasingly being tapped to fulfill this role.

In a bid to stay on top of trends, Borm Bruckmeier has translated their Wards 101 Essentials Pocketcard Set, which covers common emergency, internal medicine, and ICU topics, to the iPhone and iPad via a universal iOS app.

The Wards 101 i-pocketcards app is a straight digital conversion of the physical cards. There is a “classic view” available for users to view the cards in their original white coat form. The iPad is naturally better suited to displaying the cards in classic view, while the iPhone version will necessitate cumbersome zooming in and out to achieve a legible image size.

All 10 faces of the pocket card set are present in the app.


Luckily, the app doesn’t stop at just being a glorified pdf version of the original cards. The developers have broken down the information into categories that one can browse in the “table of contents” section. Selecting a section will display the information in a screen-optimized format that eliminates the need for cumbersome zooming, even on an iPhone screen.


While pocketcards are by nature largely not particularly interactive, the developers have tried to increase the functionality of the app by adding buttons to the SLUMS exam, so that one can administer the exam while inputting the scores while the app calculates a total score.


Overall, Wards 101 i-pocketcards is a good digital conversion of the physical set of reference cards. All the critical information found in the physical cards is present and accounted for.

However, the problems that plague the conversion of handbooks to electronic form still exist here. As addressed by us in previous reviews and commentary, these include issues about the relatively small amount of information in these apps compared to the amount of information that can possibly be packed into the digital format.

Other issues include the downward pressure on App Store prices and Apple’s 30% cut on every transaction, affecting every publisher’s bottom line. To the developers’ credit, they have priced the app at $5.99, which is cheaper than what I have seen in stores ($14.99).

The information presented in this app is nice and condensed; I could definitely imagine myself carrying it with me on an internal medicine, emergency or critical care rotation. The choice between the physical or digital version is solely up to personal preference, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of both.

If in doubt, a visit to a medical bookstore allows one to skim over all the charts, formulae and content contained within the app, and also helps one to decide whether a physical or digital version is best suited to one’s individual needs.


  • Concise collection of important information needed on the wards
  • Priced below that of the physical reference cards


  • While the presented content is very important, its scope is limited to that of the physical reference cards


  • $5.99


  • Wards 101 i-pocketcards is a digital conversion of the physical reference cards; choice of a version will depend on individual preference.

iTunes Link