Apps to Aid!

In this growing digital age, smartphones have become an essential item to the medical student’s kit and if I may say, life! What is more, is that this 10 by 6 cm piece of electronic equipment is revolutionising how much we go online to look up the odd piece of information, when necessary. The once luxury of using a smartphone to look up what you need, where you want has become a natural reflex. Medical apps are becoming increasingly popular and they are a great tool for quick learning, especially on wards. The popularity of mobile apps has risen in recent years to such an extent that people now resort to using apps as opposed to browsing for information. There is now even a Doctor’s Note app to quickly create personalised return to work/school notes for patients.

Many students are aware of the question bank apps offered by companies such as Pas Test or Passmedicine. These provide convenient, quick revision opportunities for students in between tasks. Different mobile operating systems offer a range of medical apps but many have similar and competitive purposes. There are a range of different types of medical apps the majority recommended for medical students are free of charge. Unfortunately, Pas Test, Passmedicine and now BMJ onexamination all require a subscription fee for full access.

A commonly used app during ward rounds and one definitely worth getting is the free BNF prescribing app which is available on the android and iPhone smartphones. Many medical students find this app useful as it provides information on the drug type, the dosages available, indications, contra-indications and the side effects, all of which can be accessed while on the move. Also, unlike many other apps, the internet is not required for access once downloaded and you save time by not needing to flick through the book.

There are several apps offering medical knowledge which are worth having. Currently, Medscape is voted the best app for medical students in the United States and many British students find it beneficial too. The app is incredibly thorough and provides detailed information on diseases, including the pathophysiology, investigations and treatment. It also informs of medical procedures, medical calculations as well as hourly updates on the latest news within medicine. The information that is provided is always well-referenced, with relevant journals and any conflicts of interest disclosed – making it definitely worth getting. However, one drawback is that as this app is American, so one ought to be cautious when searching drugs as different ones are usually prescribed in the UK.

For those unable to access Medscape, if they are using an old Android should download Skyscape. Skyscape is a high-quality all-in-one type app, which serves as a universal app for other apps providing access to medical calculators, medical news alerts, select practice guidelines, paid textbooks, Netters anatomy, drug references and disease monographs. It is unfortunate that very few medical apps that are well known are British, causing students to be cautious of the information they read about. BMJ have recently launched a similar app but is only available on iPad currently. Additional features it does offer are podcasts and easy to read one page summaries of research papers.

Docphin is an upcoming highly rated app to keep track of medical literature. As it is within hospitals and institution libraries, there is no need to login in multiple times to obtain the articles you require, making it much quicker to access papers. Also, you can customise the website to inform you of medical journals and news stories of specialties that you are interested in. These articles can be marked favourite and stored in your profile, so can easily be accessed in the future.

Unfortunately there is no app in the market which informs individuals of the normal range of test results. If such an app did exist, whereby blood results which were abnormal could be entered into a system and explanations for possible abnormalities were given, that could prove incredibly worthwhile, especially for those keen on unravelling the patients problem. Also Medibabble, an app that provides translated questions which are needed for taking a thorough clinical history and clinical examination from patients who are unable to speak English is useful for situations when a formal interpreter cannot be obtained. However, despite this app covering over 60 types of complaints across 11 organ systems, it only offers translations in 5 languages: Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian, and Haitian Creole. More languages are necessary if it is to be implemented on a large scale, indicating another potential gap in the market that can be filled.

So, there are so many apps to aid with learning and I have just covered a few of these. They are great for revision and checking up on knowledge but be cautious that the ones you download have the correct information. To avoid confusion always check references to ensure the source is reliable.

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