The number of alternative apps to answering clinical questions at the point of care continues to grow. We previously reviewed several alternatives to UpToDate, currently the most comprehensive app for primary care. In addition to UpToDate, we have also been impressed with Dynamed and DynamedPlus. In 2012, publishing giant Elsevier entered the fray by replacing the venerable MDConsult with ClinicalKey.

ClinicalKey was launched for medical providers and librarians as a fast, efficient search engine using Elsevier’s abundant medical resources. The desktop version uses predictive search capabilities to return robust results organized into medical topics, MEDLINE abstracts, full text articles, patient handouts, textbook chapters and even Procedures Consult videos. ClinicalKey claims access to over 1,400 specific medical topics, 1,000 textbooks, 600 full text journals, 4,500 practice guidelines, 17,000 videos and over 2 million images. In 2014, ClinicalKey launched a mobile version of the full desktop version that attempted to optimize the resource for smart devices. Finally, just last month, ClinicalKey released a dedicated mobile app. Not sure why it took Elsevier so long, but the ClinicalKey app is finally here.

Clinical Scenario

I used the new ClinicalKey app two weeks ago while serving as attending for our Family Medicine Inpatient Team. I used it for several inpatient encounters to answer questions on rounds and my own clinical questions that came up daily. Let’s say we are working on a patient with multiple medical problems including alcoholic liver disease with acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome. How well does the ClinicalKey app work on this patient?

Video Review

Login to iMedicalApps in order to view the following video review of Clinical Key. Registration for iMedicalApps is free.

How to use the app in clinical practice

The app can be used anywhere at the point of care assuming you have either a good cellular or wifi connection. Primarily, the app can be used as a medical reference in clinic, on the wards, morning report, rounds, etc. Finding answers is not as fast as using UpToDate or Dynamed however and the desktop version of ClinicalKey is easier to use than the mobile version.

Evidence based medicine

ClinicalKey contains numerous evidence based resources including FirstConsult, Ferri’s, Conn’s Current Therapy, Goldman’s Cecil Medicine, etc. ClinicalKey also includes access to MEDLINE abstracts and full text articles via Elsevier. My only issue with these resources is the lack of sequencing them/rating them by evidence category within the app. Some of this capability is available on the desktop version.

What providers would benefit from this App?

Medical students, residents, mid-levels, nurses, medical librarians, faculty providers in virtually any specialty.

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
    • Costs based on institutional size. Individual subscriptions vary by specialty and include core (First Consult, standard textbooks, etc.) and specialty resources. Individual prices range from $449 to $1,248/year.
    • Easy to use universal search.
    • Robust content from multiple platforms from Elsevier.
    • Excellent way to access full text articles your institution may not otherwise have available.
  • Dislikes
    • Interface filters far fewer than online/desktop version.
    • Content more limited than desktop version.
    • Limited full text journals; many MEDLINE abstracts only.
    • Expensive compared to other references.
  • Overall

    The mobile app version of ClinicalKey is disappointing compared to the much more robust and useful desktop version.  The app is easy to use, but the content available on the mobile platform at this time is significantly more limited and/or much more difficult to access than the desktop platform. I find ClinicalKey an excellent medical reference, but the app version is too limited to strongly recommend. If you are looking for an excellent medical reference, we recommend sticking with UpToDate or Dynamed. If you want full text journal access, we recommend using Read by QxMD or similar using your institution’s library access.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface

    Simple to use interface with universal search and predictive typing. Unfortunately, the interface of the app doesn’t include the variety of filters on the desktop version limiting content.

  • Multimedia Usage

    Access to multiple content sources with ability to download PDF’s, save content for offline use, email and print materials. Unfortunately, some content such as Procedures Consult only available on the full website/desktop version of ClinicalKey at this time.

  • Price

    Prices range from several hundred dollars to the thousands of dollars depending on personal vs. institutional subscription and number/type of specialty packages.

  • Real World Applicability

    Real world use will depend on your access to cellular or wifi connectivity in your institution and if you can live with the more limited content of the dedicated mobile app compared to the more full functional desktop version.

  • Device Used For Review

    iPhone 6S running iOS 9.2

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