Top 10 iPhone Apps Every Medical Student Must Have
If there’s one medical tool I use all the time when I’m on the wards, it’s my iPhone. In fact, from personal experience, over 80-90% of my classmates, residents and staff physicians use an iPhone or iPod Touch. The reason why the iPhone is so popular is because it’s got the best apps for the job. Medications are properly dosed, medical calculations are done correctly and you’re able to look up obscure information at your fingertips ensuring patients receive better care.
In my opinion the iPhone is currently the best smartphone for medical students and health care professionals. When it comes to having the best apps for the wards, Apple’s iOS is the clear winner.
I’m going to share with you 10 best medical apps that every medical student should have. This list was made from my personal experience using them. I’ve included my own personal rating (out of 10), and will be briefly listing the pros and cons to each one. Anything >8, I would strongly recommend you get it right away (hint: most of them are free!)
1. Medscape Mobile (10/10)
Easily the best FREE fully comprehensive medical app. For anyone that has ever used emedicine online, this is their exact same complete database in your pocket, all available for download for offline use. Their drug references are easy to use, their pictures relevant and their article collection extensive.
Pros: Extensive article collection, with over 4000+ in depth clinical references. You’ll be able to find even the most obscure diseases. Thorough information, easy to read, up to date with references. All downloadable to be used offline!
Cons: Because each article is finely detailed and subdivided into many sections, it’s not as quick as some other apps at getting information to your fingertips.
2. Epocrates (7/10)
If you haven’t heard of Epocrates, you are missing out on one of the most used and trusted apps out there. The free version only comes with Epocrates Rx (comes with pill identifier, internet connection needed). However, Epocrates Essentials comes with all the goodies including disease monographs, diagnostic tests and relevant hi-res images. Last year, Epocrates Essential was given away for free for medical students, be sure to keep an eye for similar promotions in the future.
Pros: Easy to use and quick to navigate. Relevant information divided in an organized way. Pill identifier can be useful when patients can only describe how a drug looks like (though I’ve only used it a handful of times).
Cons: Can be quite pricey $$$. Not able to find rare diseases/syndromes like medscape. Has a good basic overview of each disease but misses out on small details and evidence based summaries/references that really set you apart. Does not have Canadian drug names in their database. Their MedMath calculator is average.
3. MedCalc (10/10)
If you can never remember all those medical formulas, from the simple like how to calculate to the complicated renal filtration equations, this app is for you! Simple to use, comes with explanations of all formulas, converts all units, this app is a lifesaver! Plus if you have a smart phone, the staff docs almost expect the medical student will do all the calculating, unit conversions, and formulas with our fancy toys.
Pros: Used to be free but now costs only $0.99! You can favorite all your commonly used formulas, sort them by categories, and it’s all backed up with references and explanations. My favorite uses are unit conversions, BMI, various scoring formulas (eg, APACHE, Ranson’s) and flow chart decision making (eg, Canadian C-Spine rules)
Cons: For those who feel like $0.99 is too much to give for this fantastic app, you can try QxMD which has most of the formulas and is also free. Note that some formulas you should just know off the top of your head because they’re common and not hard to calculate.
4. Micromedex (9/10)
EVERY medical student should have a pharm/drug reference book with them at all times! Whether that’s a pocket book like Tarascon’s Pharmacopoeia, Drugs and Drugs or an electronic one you can never know too much about the drugs you are prescribing. Micromedex is a light, easy to use drug reference that is FREE! Even pharmacists use this app. However if you want a full powered drug app, Lexi-comp is still the king but comes with a steep price tag ($100+)
Pros: It’s FREE to download. Complete database, able to find both Canadian and US trade names. Has all the indications/contraindications, side effects, pharmacodynamics/kinetics and mechanisms of action that you need. They also have a Clinical Teaching section with prescribing pearls of wisdom.
Cons: Since it’s only a drug reference, it’s hard to skip back and forth between a disease and it’s treatment. The multiple folders can also get a bit tedious, especially if there’s only one word on the next page. I think it would be better if they expanded instead of going to a separate screen, making navigation easier. Just personal preference.
5. Eponyms (9.5/10)
Can’t remember what McArdle’s syndrome or a Galeazzi fracture? Do you hate remembering names of long gone physicians too? Download this free app and look up all those obscure eponyms you don’t know.
Pros: Free. Pretty extensive eponym database with good descriptions for each. You can sort by categories and star some eponyms for quick reference.
Cons: You have to look up those eponyms! A one trick pony app.
6. Wikipanion (8/10)
I don’t care what the health information librarians say, Wikipedia is still an awesome way to look up answers fast. Wikipanion is an app that helps you browse Wikipedia faster and better on your iPhone. It loads faster than Safari, has better formatting and is more friendly than wikipedia’s mobile website. Wikipanion is not the only way to view wikipedia, but I certainly think it’s the best way to read it on your phone. (requires internet connection)
Pros: Free. Wikipedia is great for looking up stuff you know you won’t find in a medical app. Mosquito reproductive cycles, geography of the world, atmospheric gas concentrations on Venus (ahh the questions you get asked on anesthesia).
Cons: You get wikipedia type entries. It can be hit or miss. Some entries will be great, others outright incorrect. I would never use wikipedia to help come up with management/treatment plans. Use with caution.
7. Diagnosaurus (6.5/10)
Don’t let the name fool you, Diagnosaurus is a fast way to come up with a differential. Input a symptom or a disease and quickly get a good differential. Offered by Access Medicine, this app won’t actually make a diagnosis but it will make sure you haven’t left out anything.
Pros: Cheap ($0.99), quick to load, offline use, reliable and comes up decent differentials.
Cons: More useful in Internal Medicine, Peds, ER, Family, not so much in specialty services. Can’t do much other than come up with a differential.
This is a big collection of classic radiology presentations with useful labels, captions and discussion. The labels and discussion make learning radiology simple and memorable. You’re able to view cases by categories or searching and no internet connection is required. It’s not bad at reviewing basic and some advanced radiology (chest xrays, abdo films, CT). However, viewing films on your small screen can be tiring.
Pros: Free! Lots of cases. Labels and captions help outline pathology. Good explanations help demystify the black box that is radiology.
Cons: If you’ve ever seen radiologist work, you know they sit in front of three to six 23′+ flat screens to do their interpretations. Your iPhone screen is not the ideal way to learn radiology. The zoom feature doesn’t make it any better.
9. Skyscape Medical Resources (5/10)
Skyscape is not just an app, it’s a platform for multiple medical resources. You can get 5 minute consult, Harrison’s, Dynamed, Harriet Lane Pediatrics handbook, Washington Manual, plus more! However, your mileage will vary depending on what you actually purchase and the prices aren’t cheap. Check if your institution has any licenses for products or else be prepared to shell out some money. Wish I could rate it higher because I know so many people use it, but for medical students, there are cheaper alternatives.
Pros: Extensive collection of resources, your favorite handbooks now in mobile form! You get RxDrugs, Outlines in Clinical Medicine, Archimedes and MedAlert for free.
Cons: Pricey $$$ and the apps have annual subscriptions and expiry dates =(. Interface is a bit sluggish.
10. Pepid (7/10)
This is the hidden gem of medical apps. It’s quick to load, easy to use, comprehensive and always gives me the answers I need. It’s comprehensive in terms of diseases and drugs, both US and Canadian trade names. Evidence based with proper citations. There’s even an option to write in your own notes beside each monograph. It’s basically medscape without the overly verbose readingand just the pertinent clinical information you need to help you make decisions. This is the first go to app I use when I need to look up dosages, side effects, diagnosis, prognosis, anything you name it!
The catch is it’s expensive $$$!!! (~$250/year). But my institution has a license for it, so I get it for free, so I am a bit biased because I pay nothing for it.
Pros: It’s quick to load, easy to use and comprehensive. It’s like combining medscape’s wealth of knowledge with epocrates interface and having some micromedex + diagnosaurus thrown into the mix. I like this app because it gives me exactly what I need, no more and no less. I use the PCP Platinum Suite which is identical to the CRC Platinum Suite as far as I can tell.
The free version gets you Pepid Elements which has info on toxicology/overdoses/antidotes/labs.
Cons: Pricey $$$. If you can’t cop a free subscription like me, go with any of the cheaper alternatives listed above, you’ll still get all the information you need.
- Dropbox - perfect for syncing up useful pdfs, journal articles, class notes
- Lexicomp – full fledged pharamacy/drug reference
- Any Unit conversion app (imperial to metric)
- Camera – comes default with your phone, useful for documenting, with consent of course
There you have it, Medaholic’s 10 recommended iPhone/iPod Touch Apps for medical students. If you want to see what others have thought about the most useful apps, here are some links below:
- The Best Medical iPhone Apps for Doctors and Med Students – divided by specialty
- Top 10 Medical Apps That Are Actually Useful for Physicians and Med Students – compilation of lists
Questions for the Discussion:
What’s your favorite medical app? Have an app that you think should have made my list? Favorite apps for BlackBerry and Android users? Would love to hear back from you in the comments.
Top 10 Medical Apps That Are Actually Useful for Physicians and Med Students