If there’s one medical tool I use all the time when I’m on the wards, it’s my smartphone (iPhone). In fact, from personal experience, over 80-90% of my classmates, residents and staff physicians a smartphone daily. The reason why is more and more of our work is reliant on having the most up to date knowledge and tools in our fingertips. Medications are properly dosed, calculations are done correctly and you’re able to look up obscure information ensuring patients receive better care.
I personally use the iPhone as it’s got some of the best apps for for medical students and health care professionals. However, while the iOS ecosystem may have been the best when I first wrote this article in 2011, today Android’s phones essentially have just as many apps.
I’m going to share with you what I think are the best medical apps that every medical student should have. This list was made from personal experience. 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. 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, an alternative is QxMD which has tons of 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.
3. Figure 1 – Medical Images (9/10)
A new comer to the medical apps world, Figure 1 is the instagram for medical doctors. Upload your own medical images and participate in the exciting discussions around thousands of images uploaded by people all over the world. There are tools used to protect patient privacy. There are also constantly new features added including following users and multi image scrolls through CT scans.
Pros: Free, great discussions, growing community, smooth interface. See my full review of the app.
Cons: Can be quite gorey for the squemish. You’ve been warned!
4. Micromedex (9/10)
EVERY medical student should have a pharm/drug reference book with them at all times! Whether it’s a pocket book scuh as 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. Even pharmacists I know 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: 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 I last reviewed it, there is now a price associated with it. If you have an online subscription it’s free for the app. Also it’s only drug reference, so it doesn’t offer any information on diseases. 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 (8/10)
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. Diagnosaurus (7/10)
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.
7. UpToDate (8/10)
UpToDate is so essential. It’s got all the right information that you need and it’s written in a way that’s accessible. It always answers exactly the questions I need when I need them most. The app has gone through a lot of improvements and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite apps to look things up.
Pros: Has everything you need to know – and probably even too much. If your institution has a subscription (most residency programs will), you can get the mobile app free. This is a new feature that has made me include it on this list.
Cons: Not as lightweight as medscape, and there isn’t any offline use. It can also be a bit pricey to get an UTD subscription if your institution doesn’t subscribe to it.
Another new addition to this top ten list. Can’t remember those cardiology trial names? This app has them all and much more. It bases all its information on the Wiki journal club website, which is constantly updated by its members.
Pros: It’s free and it’s constantly updated. Easy to use, smooth interface. For more details, see my full app review
Cons: There is a one time cost to paying for the app. Small price but worth it in my opinion, especially when you can quote specifics of trials in seconds, whenever someone asks.
There are so many times a patient has walked into the emergency room with a life threatening condition but because they don’t speak English, they get substandard care. Especially with an ever increasingly diverse population, translation services at point of care is essential. Medibabble gets that job done and has the most common questions in a variety of languages.
Pros: Compared to other translation apps, this one has a medical focus. You can ask a patient if they are short of breath in Spanish, French or a plethora of languages. It’s all neatly organized according to part of the assessment you’re on – symptoms, signs, medications, medical history. They also have a function where they will write out the words for those who are hard of hearing. Best of all it’s offline too and you can download a variety of language packs.
Cons: It takes some time to get used to it. The phrases are sometimes excessively long. It will also hog up a lot of hard drive space on your phone, so I often just download only the most common languages I see.
10. Epocrates (7/10)
I use to really like Epocrates, but at the time of writing (2014), I feel like they have fallen behind more robust references (UpToDate, Medscape). 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.
- Dropbox – perfect for syncing up useful pdfs, journal articles, class notes
- Camera – comes default with your phone, useful for documenting, with consent of course
- Previous Mentions: Skyscape, iRadiology, Pepid
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