The number of medical journals available for the iPad has grown exponentially as more publishers recognize the potential benefits and utility of providing their content on multiple platforms.

However, to date, the number of journals that have opted to take advantage of features such as Apple’s Newsstand feature is remarkably low. This commentary will focus on problems caused by this and how they could be addressed.

For a detailed recap on what Newsstand is, please look here. In brief, Newsstand allows:

Journals to automatically update and download new content as it becomes available
A unique section within the iTunes App Store

What are the problems?

One of the large issues facing healthcare professionals is that few medical journals actually take advantage of Newsstand for automatic delivery. There could be many reasons for this, however, the most likely is that publishers are not willing to pay extra for specific development requirements for Newsstand to work.

Another big issue is that there is no easy way to collect all the available medical journals together in one place. Browsing the Apple iTunes Store for Newsstand apps runs into some problems. There is also no major category for medical Newsstand apps like there is in the main App Store.

The potential Newsstand options include:

  • Professional & Technical (26)
  • Health, Mind & Body (2)
  • Literary Magazines & Journals (1)
  • Science (17)

The number in brackets indicates how many medical journals are available in each area. There were also other medical journals in completely inappropriate categories such as Education. The number of journals which take advantage of Newsstand is considerably smaller than the total number of medical journals available.

What does Apple need to do?

Ideally, Apple should create a sub-section within the medical category for all medical journals regardless of whether they use Newsstand or not. This would really help many clinicians who often ask me whether the journals they want are available on the iTunes Store. In the meantime, the best thing for clinicians to do is to adopt one of the many medical journal content aggregators such as Read by QxMD or other similar apps. These will at least allow clinicians to try and stay up to date with the latest academic research developments in their field.

These are still early days for medical journals on mobile devices and there is considerable work which still needs to be done to identify the best way to solve problems such as setting up institutional logins or secure Newsstand integration. Work also needs to be done to investigate how these journals are used by clinicians and if they are being used to their full potential.