This year marks the Bicentennial of The New England Journal of Medicine. As the “oldest continuously published medical journal in the world,” NEJM has heralded many great discoveries and advances in medicine within its veneratble pages: to name a few, the first use of surgical anesthesia (1846), the first description of chemotherapy (1948), and the first application of targeted molecular therapies for cancer (2001). Now these and future announcements will be available in an unprecedented form, because on its 200th anniversary NEJM transformed its ink into pixels and its paper into iOS by introducing the NEJM iPad App.
NEJM provided their iPad App to Medgadget for review, and overall we like what see. The following is the breakdown:
Ease of use: Even though the iPad has been lauded for its singular ease of use, the same cannot be said for many of its apps. Fortunately NEJM is not one of those apps – they nailed it by creating a very intuitive interface. The welcome screen is the Store with thumbnails of each of NEJM‘s weekly issues that can be simply previewed and downloaded (free to existing subscribers; $14.99/month, or $5.99/issue; one free fully functional issue). There are also quick link buttons that allow users to change font size, bookmark articles of interest, or search the entire issue or one’s whole issue library for specific terms. Hopefully the ease of use is a first baby step to bringing nontraditional readers to the journal.
Readability: Do not worry, traditionalists! The overall formatting style of the NEJM app resembles that of the print issue (and online articles). One key advantage though is that the journal is interactive, and one can find the definition of many words, such as “embolism,” by simply highlighting them. That being said, the feature has a lot more potential and we hope that NEJM makes a step towards improving it. For example, certain medically relevant word phrases such as “tachyarrhtyhmias” and “hazard ratio” cannot currently be looked up using the app. Also, though it makes for easy reading that the tables and figures are set off to the side and can be expanded if desired, we wish that each table/figure was at least in line with the paragraph that refers to it. Scrolling up and down an article is not continuous but rather discreet, sort of like turning a page, and one can inadvertently slide to the previous or following article with too quick a side stroke. On the plus side, endnote numbers are hyperlinked and when clicked pop up the reference rather than move the page, thereby allowing for easy browsing. Eventually, we hope that the references themselves will be hyperlinked and browsable in-app so that one can read related abstracts if so desired.
Social- and Multimedia: The NEJM iPad App features a number of bells and whistles that integrate with modern media. In addition to the traditional article sharing via e-mail, the iPad App now makes it easy to link papers of interest to Facebook and Twitter (though it would also be nice to have an optionally visible comment feed below each article). One can also add personal notes to each article, which can then be e-mailed for long term retention. Speaking of e-mail, the corresponding author’s e-mail is hyperlinked for easy in-app e-mailing should one want to reach out.
The coolest multimedia features, however, have to do with the audio and images. If one is in a multitasking mood, he or she can listen to the 15-30 minute audio summary for a particular issue while browsing through the articles. Furthermore, the iPad interface allows for better interaction with images. For example, there is an amazingly detailed chest X-ray film in the March 15, 2012 issue that clearly shows the left lung bronchiole tree due to the patient having accidentally aspirated barium. In the print or online issue it would not be possible or as easy to interact with the image by, for example, magnifying it. It actually feels as if you’re holding the film in your own hand!
Overall: If you enjoy keeping up to date with groundbreaking medical news (which we know you do, given that you’re on Medgadget) it’s worth your while to check out the NEJM iPad App. Browse the free trial issue to see if you like it. They’ve enhanced the reader experience, particularly with regards to social media and multimedia, though admittedly there is room for improvement given that is version 1.0.1. We look forward to seeing what the next versions will look like!
Editorial in NEJM :The Journal’s App for the iPad…