By: Michael Kerr
The Pain Management Pocketcards app almost gets it right. The app consists of a few genuinely useful reference cards. The inclusion of far too many bells and whistles, however, makes this app a good example of how increasing the complexity of an app’s design doesn’t necessarily make it better.
This app started its life as four cards aimed at a more junior physician or student that provided small pearls of wisdom in the management of pain–assessment, management, suggested dosing, equianalgesic conversions, complications, and side effects. They’ve been available on Amazon for the past 3 years and currently sell for $7.15. The app is available on iTunes for $4.99 and the Google Play store for the same amount.
The app is essentially a digitized version of the cards. At first glance, the app appears to have quite a bit of content. If you are just looking at the table of contents, you’d be forgiven for thinking so.
However, it’s really little more than the same four cards plus a somewhat unnecessary table of contents to go along with it. I’d like to stress that the limited content here isn’t a negative. By their very nature, Pocketcards are designed to be concise, high yield material. My issue here is the unnecessary clutter that’s added on to the cards which detracts from the experience without any real benefits.
Pocket cards have long held the prized position next to empty gum wrappers in white coats and pockets of students, interns, and physicians. In my humble opinion and more humble experience, their value lies in providing rapid access to small pieces of important information. They have to be physically small and light enough to not be an encumbrance to carrying daily. Anything too large is going to be left behind and not accessible when actually needed. Information needs to be quickly at hand; pocket cards shouldn’t require an index and a good comfy leather chair to read.
I’ve used similar memory tools during my hospital rotations on my lanyard. They’ve been great when trying to remember how to convert a patient from one opioid to another, or jog your memory when trying to preempt and avoid complications related to pain management. After a few uses of the cards you remember where the information was and have little need for a table of contents. It would take longer to read the table of contents than to flip over a few cards until you recalled the particular table you were after.
This is pretty much my only issue with the app. I think that for this particular tool/app, simplicity is something to embrace. The app feels cluttered with unnecessary menus, options, and somewhat useless add-ons that detract from the experience. It appears that this is a universal app aimed at being able to contain different content from the publisher, who has a range of medical pocket cards.
From something like this, I want similar functionality as from physical pocket cards. I want to be able to press the app icon and launch straight into a fully zoomed representation of the first card. I don’t need a TOC to navigate when I can swipe from card 1 to 4 in two seconds. Overall, I found it much easier to get to the information by simply swiping left and right instead of using the TOC.
I must note that this app was tested on the iPad and Note 2. On the phone, I found that the card was only just large enough to be legible and this is on a 5.5 inch screen. Lots of space was wasted with unnecessary icons. When an app has only 4 screens of information, you don’t need to save one as a favorite, nor do you really need the option to annotate it.
Some people might argue that these features represent added value. For some apps I’d agree with them, but in this case simplicity and minimalism are a strength. I think the user experience would be much improved if the app worked in a similar way to ebook readers, such as iBooks. Clicking the app would immediately bring up the card in full screen view, without any icons. From there if you wanted to check the TOC, search, or for some reason make an annotation, a single touch in the middle of the card could bring up the icons superimposed on the card. You would have immediate access to the information similar to a physical card and added options would be available if needed.
I don’t mean this to be a negative review of this app. Overall I think that it would be well suited for any junior doctor who was willing to pay the price. The app almost perfectly recreates a digitized version of a pocketcard series. Aside from the mild frustrations of the user interface, it’s a perfectly serviceable tool to add to your daily repertoire. If anyone was considering purchasing the physical version and carried a smartphone while on the wards, they’d be mad for not seriously considering this as an option. Not only is it cheaper, it’s also going to be always at hand; you’re far more likely to have your phone than physical pocketcards in a pinch.
- Physical $7.95
- iTunes $4.99 (was not available on the Australian iTunes store)
- Google Play store $4.99
- Useful information for common issues regarding pain management
- At their native resolution the cards are well designed
- The user interface gets in the way
- It’s relatively expensive for the amount of content you get for $4.99
- Useful information for junior doctors and students, somewhat pricey, a more minimalistic approach would boost the user experience.
Tested on: iPad 3 (iOs 6.1), Note 2 (android 4.1.2)
Rating: (1 to 5 stars) – 3/5
1. User Interface – 3.25/5
2. Multimedia usage – 4/5
3. Price – 2/5
4. Real world applicability– 5/5