The Merck Manual is well known as one of the key reference texts for internal medicine physicians.
Unbound Medicine, developers of other well known reference apps including Johns Hopkins POC-IT series, Harriet Lane Handbook, have recently released the latest edition (19th) of the popular Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy.
This app review will not focus on the core content of the Merck Manual but rather examine the app itself.
Initially the user is presented with a range of menu options which allow you to locate the content you want in an efficient manner. The Topics list is an index of all the articles stored in the app. All the content of the book is stored in this app for offline access which is very useful when faced with internet connectivity issues. Due to the large amount of content in the Merck Manual, I found the easiest way to find what I was looking for was to use the search function.
Each article is well laid out and split into sections. The user interface and design of the app mean finding the specific information you want in an article is straightforward. The addition of a button allowing the user to jump between sections is welcomed. Each article is reformatted depending on whether the device is in landscape/portrait mode. There is a note at the bottom of each article which discloses when the content on that page was last reviewed which is helpful to ensure that you are reading timely information.
While there were some hyperlinks linking to different topics, I felt that the user navigation could be enhanced by creating more hyperlinks. Another area of potential improvement is the search results which currently are not very clear. As you can see in the screenshot, the search function accurately finds the relevant article, however, each section from the article has its own search results.
Unfortunately, the iPhone’s screen is not big enough to show which subsection each search result corresponds with. I think it would be better to either have one search result that linked to the start of each topic or to alternatively create space to show which subsection each search result corresponds to. The ability to “favorite” an article is welcomed although there was a notable lack of a “history” functionality to see articles previously looked at.
The sections tab divides the content into different modalities such as Cardiovascular Disorders. The Symptoms tab is relatively self-explanatory and gives a list of common symptoms, common causes and offers advice on the findings, complete with a suggested diagnostic approach.
The Images section contains a considerable number of medical images with a short discussion related to each topic. Each picture can be turned into a full screen image, though, I was disappointed with the poor quality of some of the images. This led to pixelation and made features more challenging to distinguish.
There are four videos included in the app although these require an internet connection to view. Some sections also have online audio.
- Lots of different ways to find articles
- Button to switch between sections within a topic
- All content stored offline for easy access
- Not enough hyperlinks linking separate topics
- Would be nice if search results offered more information
- Higher quality images in image section
- Good conversion from textbook to app form. A robust app for those who want to carry the Merck Manual around with them
- One or two interface issues don’t detract from what is a good app.