Medscape from WebMD is one of the leading medical resources used by physicians, medical students, nurses, and other healthcare professionals for clinical information. Since 2009, Medscape has released an annual update of its Medscape Mobile app. The mobile app is used by over 3 million health care professionals and was the #1 most downloaded free app in the medical category on iTunes for 2010.
The app, as with previous versions, offers evidence-based disease reference and updated medical news and education resources. An independent team of 7700 physicians and pharmacists author and review the content, so you know you are getting current information. Medscape just released its 4.0 version this past week that includes several new features. We got our hands on it and wanted to give you our thoughts.
The Medscape App is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and KindleFire. (Unlike other popular apps such as Epocrates, Medscape for KindleFire is a significant improvement and opens access to a new realm of non-Apple users.) The app is optimized for iPhone 5 and requires iOS 5.0 or later. The app can simply be downloaded and installed on your Apple device (this version is not available for Android platforms). You can also choose to download the reference material to have access to it without an Internet connection. This takes up to 10 minutes on a Wi-Fi connection (20 minutes on 3G). Unfortunately, the news and education content is not available offline.
One disadvantage is that you must have a Medscape account to use the app (we did beforehand, so not a problem for us). Medscape is relatively widely used, but be aware that setup involves a registration process.
A major advantage of the app that you notice right off the bat is that it tailors your homepage of news, reference, and education to your particular specialty. This author’s being “medical student”, news stories about specialty choice and residency come up immediately. Let’s take a look through each of the 3 main tabs:
- Reference: The app offers a clinical reference database of more than 8,000 drugs, 4,000 diseases and conditions, thousands of clinical images and procedure videos, drug interaction checker tools (for up to 30 drugs at a time!), and medical calculators. The app also offers MEDLINE for citation searches. Notably the reference pages offer enough clinical information for most clinical purposes; however, the information is a bit extensive. However, it’s doubtful that someone studying for USMLE exams would use this as a reference – it is meant for practicing clinicians. One disadvantage noted in some user reviews is that the app does not offer generic names for some meds.
- News: As mentioned, the app offers daily medical news and alerts tailored to your specialty area(s). You can also save any news article, drug profile, or other reference sheet to a private folder of yours. It also offers practice guidelines from medical associations and government agencies, FDA announcements, and important insights from thought leaders. As mentioned above, this material is not available in the offline version.
- Education: You can earn free CME credits directly within the app and access the clinical reference database and drug interaction checker anywhere without an Internet connection if you install the full database. The app can also be used to complete CEU credits as well. One disadvantage is that the patient education materials can’t be accessed in the offline version.
According to the App Store page, the main improvements (and our comments) are as follows:
- Redesigned iPad user interface: We’ve got to say, the app is extremely user friendly. The tailoring of news stories to your specialty and the clear delineation between reference and education sections make this easier to use than several competitor apps (e.g. Epocrates). Furthermore, the education section clearly delineates what parts are eligible for CME credits and keeps a tracker of your CE credits below. Really cool stuff.
- Medical Calculators: The app now offers 129 formulas, scales, and classifications in addition to 600+ drug monographs with integrated dosing calculators. You simply access the “Calculations” icon on the “References” page. The calculations, nicely categorized by specialty, range from depression screening by the two-item PHQ-2 scale to atrial fibrillation and atrial thromboembolism risk to false positive and negative ratios. It is a bit difficult to search for a specific calculation, however, if you do not know which category it is in.
- Formulary information: This is perhaps the most relevant of its additions. Now you can select from a complete list of 1800+ insurance plans across all 50 states. You can customize your account with the health plans you accept, so that the information you need is saved and ready every time you use the app. One disadvantage is that several drugs do not have formulary information – perhaps this will be addressed in further updates.
- Available for the iPhone5
Despite some minor annoyances (e.g. having to register before use), the Medscape Mobile app is a great tool for clinicians, particularly those who use iPad or KindleFire. The user-friendly interface is a definite improvement over other medical reference apps, and its wealth of offline content is a great addition as well. Plus – it’s free! Other features offered by other apps, such as a medical glossary, could offer further improvement, in case non-clinicians ever want to use the app. However, for a free app, it’s extremely handy and definitely worth trying out if you are a clinician or health professional student.
Product page: Medscape Mobile App…