One of the most anticipated medical apps to drop in years is finally about to be released. MDCalc.com is probably the most popular online clinical decision tool the general public doesn’t know about. Ask any physician you know if they have ever been to MDCalc.com and there is a good chance the answer is yes. They might not remember the MDCalc.com URL, but if you show them the familiar green and white color homepage with the gray text it will come back to them.
If you search Google for almost any medical clinical decision tool, such as Wells’ criteria, CENTOR criteria, Canadian CT Head Injury Rules, and many more – you will end up on MDCalc.com. Usually MDCalc.com comes up even before Wikipedia. MDCalc.com gets over 850,000 unique visitors a month, translating to millions of medical calculations performed yearly.
Saying MDCalc.com simply performs medical calculations or just copy and pastes medical algorithms is not true — there’s a lot more to the platform. The physician team behind MDCalc goes several steps further and actually tells you what a clinical decision calculation means. For almost every clinical decision tool there are sections dedicated to “Pearls/Pitfalls”, “Points to keep in mind”, “Use cases”, and “Why use it”. MDCalc has even gone as far as to get quotes and advice from the original authors of many of the clinical decision tools listed and provides that information publicly.
I firmly believe a big part of why MDCalc.com is so popular is because the platform is run by a team of physicians who actually practice medicine. In a time where more medical students aren’t even completing residencies, the execution of MDCalc.com clearly would not have been the same if done by a team who didn’t know how various clinical workflows actually occur.
The physician team behind MDCalc.com is Dr. Joe Habboushe, an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and Dr. Graham Walker, an attending Emergency Medicine Physician in San Francisco.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been pestering the MDCalc team for not creating a medical app sooner. I’ve been using MDCalc.com for years, and I know myself and several others have been wondering what took so long. Further, the overall quality of the medical calculators apps in the iOS and Android stores has been diminishing, making MDCalc.com even more necessary.
So with the release of the MDCalc.com app happening this week, I sent Dr. Habboushe [JH] and Dr. Walker [GW] some questions about the medical app – below are their responses. Obviously when the MDCalc app releases we will have a full medical app review on iMedicalApps. We’ll be sending out an email notifing our readers when the MDCalc app is released. Register on our site to receive email updates.
JH: Dr. Joe Habboushe
GW: Dr. Graham Walker
1) Tell us about the MDCalc.com website — Why did you create the website, what have you learned from it?
So, I’m an efficiency addict. I get irked when I’d be forced to waste time doing something slowly or inefficiently, especially if it’s not going to help me do my job better, faster, or improve my patient care.
During my IM rotation in med school at Stanford, one of the senior residents pimped me on the Ranson’s Criteria. I told her “Oh I have no idea, I’d always just look that up,” and she asked where I’d find it — at which point I realized there actually wasn’t an easy resource to calculate all these esoteric formulae for doctors. People were literally memorizing things such as “Blood urea nitrogen increase > 5” and coming up with crazy mnemonics to remember this stuff. Seriously — GALAW CHOBBS is a mnemonic for the Ranson’s Criteria. That is insane.
I collected about 30 other scores after talking with other young physicians who were similarly frustrated — and MDCalc was born! Joe joined a few years later, and we’ve been growing it since.
It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the vast numbers of physicians we’re helping on a daily basis, and literally from around the world. We receive emails from all types of specialists, from fellow emergency physicians down the street to surgical intensivists in Thailand, thanking us for creating the site. It’s a great feeling.
2) Tell us how MDCalc is different than the other medical calculators currently available, such as MedCalX, QxMD’s calculator, and others.
MDCalc has been the leading provider of medical calculators and clinical decision tools to the physician community for over a decade now — and we’ve learned a ton about what our wide range of specialists want and need:
FREE – We’re starting out completely free, so long as you download by May 1, 2016.
EXPERT CONTENT – We have the most concise and targeted content developed by a team of experts to help users figure out:
– When should I use this calculator?
– Any caveats/pitfalls to its use?
– What should I do next?
– A short synopsis of the evidence & studies.
CREATOR INSIGHTS – We’ve interviewed many calculator creators themselves. For example, comments on the two Wells Criteria by Dr. Phil Wells.
USER FRIENDLY INTERFACE – We think the user interface is really outstanding. We went back and forth — and had a lot of passionate discussions — to achieve that fine balance of information on the iPhone. Our aim is to always provide sufficient information to users with easy ways for them to dive deeper without cluttering things too much.
ROBUST SEARCH & FILTER – We’re really excited about this: a patent-pending new search / filter function that allows users to quickly find what they’re looking for — and even discover new calculators they may not have known existed, based on clinical scenarios. (We like it so much we’ll be adding it to the website soon.)
3) Will MdCalc be a free app or will users have to pay for it?
We love that MDCalc has been free for so many years, although we’re also faced with the reality that there are costs to developing and providing this content and service.
We decided that, if you download by May 1, 2016, you will have unlimited access to the app without charge. After that initial period, we may need to charge future new users to help subsidize some of our costs.
4) Why did it take so long for MDCalc.com to finally create a specific mobile app?
Great question – and definitely not the first time hearing it! We recognized that building a native app was very different from a website and that people are very selective about which apps they download and use. So we wanted to get it right the first time – and that’s why we took our time, incorporating what our users told us they care about and want in their app.
And that’s what we feel we are launching now: a powerful clinical decision app with a friendly user interface, concise and useful content when and where you need it, with an innovative search and filter function to help you find calculators you may never have used before. We’re hoping this sets a new standard.
5) It seems like most of the searches online for major decision tools ends up leading to the MDCalc’s website. For example, when searching google for PERC calculator, MDCalc’s website comes up. How many calculations does MDCalc.com perform yearly, and is MDCalc.com the most popular online medical calculator?
Google Analytics states we have over 500,000 monthly unique users from the U.S., plus 350,000 more from around the world. This all translates to tens of millions of calculations done on the site each year.
And keep in mind, there are less than a million U.S. physicians, about 1.3 million total potential users if you include PAs, NPs, and med students – so we estimate ~40% use us regularly.
Like you mentioned, we certainly have great search rankings, a byproduct of many years of vetting and carefully developing only the highest quality and most widely used clinical decision tools. We take a lot of pride in being able to contribute towards improving healthcare at such a large scale: assisting hundreds of thousands of doctors in providing the best possible care for their tens of millions of patients.
6) Will MDCalc’s team be creating any other types of medical apps or are you sticking to medical calculators for the moment?
The first app is always the hardest to get out (and in our case it took years to bring to reality!). But now that we’ve broken the seal, so to speak – we’re excited to continue forward with iterating and expanding on the MDCalc platform – whether through enhanced content and features for our current app, or complementary new apps.
But we also appreciate it’s critically important to remain true to our expertise: point-of-care decision support to help physicians deliver higher quality, more efficient care to patients. EBM has come a long way in the last 20 years and we want to continue to foster advances in that field while providing the right content at the right time to practicing docs.
This may mean finding smarter ways to bring clinical support to physicians when and where they need it, making the right content available at the right moments, and perhaps finding ways to help the calculator creators themselves develop better clinical decision tools for tomorrow.
Here is a preview screenshot of the MDCalc medical app, set to release later this week.