Frequently, trainees ask me why they need a dedicated infectious disease guide. Why can’t they just use a drug guide such as Epocrates or Lexicomp or reference apps such as UpToDate, Dynamed or Essential Evidence Plus? Perhaps they could. The problem with drug guides is that they may not be up to date or accurate. Witness the recent removal of the app Bugs + Drugs by Epocrates — an app that simply was not accurate.

The embedded drug guides in Epocrates Essentials and LexiComp’s full suite are fine, but require additional purchase. The issue with the reference apps is that in order to find what you are looking for you have to dig through excellent but unnecessary text in UpToDate or Dynamed to drill down to the information you need.

Login to iMedicalApps in order to view the following video review of Johns Hopkins Abx Guide (We look at the 2015 and the 2016 guides). Registration for iMedicalApps is free.

So for years, I have been recommending the outstanding Johns Hopkins ABX Guide — the infectious disease app of choice in our opinion. The best alternative is the equally excellent Sanford Guide. My preference of Hopkins over Sanford is simply the better user interface and “load time” of the app on my iPhone. The information within is essentially identical. This brings up the purpose of this review. Do you need to pay for the annual update for apps like Hopkins and Sanford? The app will continue to function on your phone if you don’t update. What is different between the 2015 and 2016 versions of the apps?

I view this a bit more from a philosophical standpoint. Would you want your doctor carrying around last year’s version of Epocrates or UpToDate? Granted these apps do need frequent updating as FDA approvals for medications and changes in prescribing guidelines occur regularly. Apps such as UpToDate and Dynamed update their topics continuously so you could miss a critical change by not renewing. I have seen critical updates “missed”, by not updating weekly. Therefore, I advocate that providers always update their subscriptions to apps such as UpToDate, Epocrates and Hopkins. You are simply playing “Russian Roulette” if you don’t.

Is the 2016 version of the Johns Hopkins Abx Guide worth the update?

But what is different between the 2015 and 2016 versions of Hopkins? Since I have both versions on my phone, I thought I would compare the two regarding common prescribing indications including UTI, CAP, sepsis, and some common STDs. Honestly, there is not much difference. The interface is the same.

For Hopkins, this is a good thing, as the app is very easy to use. To Sanford’s credit, they have been improving their interface each year, but it still isn’t as user friendly as Hopkins. The advantage to updating is that recommendations will likely change during the year. Once the new CAP guidelines are released, the 2016 version will get those updates while the 2015 version won’t.

This is the same problem with buying the pocket guide of apps like this. Why carry around a paper version that is out of date the day it is published? I also recommend that providers get the app version of drug guides or apps like Sanford as you will get updates throughout the year. The price you pay is the need to update annually.

The app developers could offer those updates for free, but they are not in business for that reason. Since both Hopkins and Sanford are only $29.99, they are both very reasonable annual outlays. Just pick the one you like the most and don’t look back.


Evidence based medicine

Hopkins Abx Guide covers the gamut of infectious diseases and is written by reputable authors from one of the leading institutions in the country. The app contains the expert guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and remains my top choice for infectious diseases apps. However, at the moment, there is no obvious difference between the 2015/2016 guide–at least on the common (and limited) diseases that I compared.

What providers would benefit from this App?

Students, residents, mid-levels, hospitalists, nurses, any staff provider who cares for patients with infectious diseases.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

  • Price
    • $29.99
    • Interface is easy to use and has universal search.
    • Detailed coverage of pathogen topics and abx, not just drug recommendations.   
    • Economical considering prices of fully optioned drug guides and medical references.
  • Dislikes
    • No built in calculators.
    • No obvious differences between the 2015 and 2016 guides (at least at this time).
    • May not be detailed enough for providers used to UpToDate and Dynamed.
  • Overall

    The Hopkins ABX Guide remains my go to infectious diseases app; although the Sanford Guide makes a viable alternative. However, the current version of the app doesn’t appear significantly different than its predecessor.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface

    Simple to use interface with universal search with easy to mark favorites.

  • Multimedia Usage

    Extensive hyperlinking within the app between pathogens and antimicrobials with links to key references and guidelines, but no built in calculators.

  • Price

    App is $29.99 which may be too steep for providers with full versions of LexiComp or UpToDate. I find the dedicated app is worth it for the authoritative recommendations and ease of use.

  • Real World Applicability

    I find this app indispensible when prescribing antimicrobials in clinic and on the wards. Current subscribers may not want to jump on the 2016 version until new IDSA guidelines are released.

  • Device Used For Review

    iPhone 6S running iOS 9.1

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