(Click here to see the video review)

If you have seen our prior top medical app compilations you have obviously noted the frequent appearance of the New England Journal of Medicine’s “This Week” near the top of the list.

I won’t write flowery prose about how the New England Journal of Medicine is an institution in the medical community. My fellow medical professionals are well aware of the importance of “the” Journal.

So naturally, we had been requesting an iPad version of the New England Journal of Medicine for some time, and The Journal has finally delivered.

In order to get a better idea of the New England Journal of Medicine’s (NEMJ) efforts to go mobile, I interviewed Thomas Easley, the publisher and managing director of the NEJM, about the NEJM’s efforts to go mobile. We discussed why it took so long for the iPad app release, and I found out some interesting numbers on the number of downloads the iPhone version of the app has had. The interview is forthcoming.

So how does the iPad app stack up? Does it merely take the online version of the NEJM and put PDF files on your iPad? Or, does it utilize the dynamic user interface of the iPad and allow for a transformational reading experience?

We have a video review of the app here: (register for free to view the video)

Read on below for the text review.


The login screen enables you to use your current subscription email address, or, allows you to purchase individual journal issues via the app using your iTunes information. Individual purchases are $5.99.

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User interface

Once you enter a particular issue, you are presented with a clean and intuitive interface:

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There are various methods that enable you to switch between articles in a particular issue. Swiping side to side enables you to switch between articles, but one of my favorite UI designs is the slide out navigation tab. This method enables you to quickly switch between articles.

Slide out index:

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Vertical article mode:

I prefer reading the articles in vertical mode, more akin to reading a book. Similar UI features are available in this mode.

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Once in an actual article, or even while you are in a particular issue, you can leave notes to yourself. This feature is great, but also leaves much to be desired. Many medical professionals use their iPad during journal club, and the ability to actually highlight or place notes next to particular paragraphs would have been great — making those articles you pick for Journal Club much easier to present.

Unfortunately, the app does not allow for highlighting and placing notes in custom areas.

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The search function not only enables you to search for keywords within an article, but in an issue as well:

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I’m a huge fan of having the ability to organize your favorite articles, and this is one of my favorite features of the app. This feature enables you to have your own person NEJM library of favorite articles.

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You can do portions of CME activities using this app, but in order to do the actual tests and get credit you have to leave the app and use Safari — less than ideal.

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Retina Display:

One of the exciting factoids I found out when talking to the managing director of the NEJM was that they delayed the iPad app so it would be retina display compatible with iOS 5.1. Exciting right? Well, not quite.

This review is done using the New iPad, and unfortunately the articles themselves don’t appear to be optimized for the retina display. This is particularly evident when zooming in on tables. The following screen shot shows this:

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That said, the text in the article is clear and easy to read, but if you want a true retina display experience with simple PDFs you can achieve that on apps such as DropBox and Goodreader.


One of my favorite features of the NEJM This Week app are the weekly summaries. The iPad app integrates these issue summaries beautifully. You can listen to the summary in the background, and still be reading or looking at other parts of the issue without interruption:

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What we like:

  • More note taking and bookmarking ability than traditional medical journal apps
  • Dynamic use of the iPad’s user interface
  • Audio is seamlessly integrated into the app
  • CME learning
  • Ability to buy issues within the App using your App Store information

Areas for Improvement:

  • Ability to highlight text and leave notes on particular paragraphs and tables
  • Badges are annoying: If there is one thing users of Epocrates are intimately aware of is the annoyance of badges
  • For CME activities you have to go through the Web Portal, and can’t compete full activities on the iPad. I’m sure that’s because of some pharma or CME “rule” but it’s annoying nonetheless
  • Images are not retina display ready, reference above explanation and pictures.


  • For the tens of thousands who already have a subscription to the NEJM, downloading the iPad app is a no-brainer
  • The real question is for those who don’t have a subscription to the Journal, and for those who use their academic institutions to access the NEJM as unfortunately, you can’t use your institutional access for the iPad app
  • Is the iPad app enticing enough to buy a subscription to the Journal? It’s a close call. The app makes use of the iPads dynamic user interface and offers functionality you can’t achieve with the print and online forms. The ability to make custom notes and to make your own library are great features. The app itself is simple, efficient, and frankly — fun to use.

In the video review accompanying this piece I reveal my personal decision on whether or not to purchase a subscription to the NEJM based on using the iPad app.