11 Apps for the Medical Student

The recent rise of smartphones and tablets has opened up the doors for new ways we can use technology in our day-to-day lives. From reading news to playing games, it seems that we suddenly have a lot more options and a lot more flexibility.

Medicine has leveraged these advances to make tools and utilities that can take advantage of the new market, where a computer and more importantly the software that is on it has become portable.

Nearing the start of my clinical years, I present to you my list of phone and tablet apps that I currently use or have used in the past that I feel will continue to be useful for any medical student.

Disclaimer: The following apps are all available for iOS. Availability online, on Android, Blackberry, or any other operating system may vary depending on the author of the respective programs.

UpToDate
A lot of seniors and doctors swear by this resource. Giving detailed information about pathology, diseases, and very specific clinical scenarios, this resource offers rigorous evidence-based practice guidelines and recommendations. Having an integrated drug compendium and interaction table also adds to its full suite of functions. The downside is the expensive yearly subscription and the prose-heavy writing that is not as well suited for quick reading. Because most hospitals have a subscription to UpToDate, this is one that I am opting to just use at work on the hospital terminals.

PEPID
Often overshadowed by the more easily recognizable and pervasive UpToDate, PEPID has been a hidden gem amongst our class. The app is evidence-based and comprehensive but is careful not to be heavy on the eyes. The main clinical pearls are presented in an easy-to-gleam fashion that makes quick referencing and reading a breeze. The downside is the expensive year-based subscription that, like UpToDate, can be very prohibitive.

Medscape
Another simple and easily accessible resource. Fairly comprehensive information about drugs, conditions, and procedures etc. The layout is intuitive and the news section is also welcome to see what is going on in the medical world. For a medical student, you can never go wrong with a price tag of “absolutely free.” The drawback is in the accessibility; with everything organized into separate subsections it can make reading a slower and more tedious experience.

Eponyms
It is very common within the medical vocabulary to find eponyms - conditions and signs that have since been named by their discoverers. This app describes some of the common and obscure eponyms that currently exist in medicine. It has helped me stay in the loop on a number of occasions and works well as a primer for learning new things. The added bonus? Free.

Epocrates
This one is ubiquitous among students for its pharmaceutical app, which comes free. It has a suite called Essentials that comes with more tools and functions. However, the gem is in the ease of use, the detailed yet to-the-point monographs. With an interaction checker, a pill identifier, and calculator, this fills in the pharmaceutical half of the clinical picture. An honourable mention here is Micromedex Drug Information, which provides drug monographs of comparable quality but without added functionality.

Lexi-Comp
This is a monster of an app. By far the most complete drug information reference you could ask for. The monographs are detailed and well organized into sub headers and are updated on an almost daily basis, ensuring that you never miss a beat. The interaction checker not only classifies the severity or absolute contraindications but also the mechanism behind it. A slew of pharmacology related calculators are added into the mix. Again, this is a prohibitively expensive yearly subscription-based app. For additional charges, you can add even more functions from the full Lexi-Comp suite. 

Calculate
Created by QxMD, this medical calculator compiles some of the most common and useful clinical calculators needed in practice. Broken down by specialty, it is well laid out and easy to access. From calculating risk factors to working through question flows, this app does a good job of providing quick results and support. Again, this is a free app. 

Medcalc
Similar to Calculate above, this calculator provides access to many calculators including forms, scores, and classifications. This however, covers many calculators that Calculate does not and is overall a more complete calculator. All of this comes at a cost. While it was originally free, it has become tiered into two paid apps, the more expensive of the two having some added functionality that may or may not be useful. 

Translate
On several occasions already, I have made use of this app to help me translate medical terms for patients. In a cosmopolitan city, language barriers are a real concern; patients do not always come in with a strong grasp on English, let alone the complicated medical explanations rarely used in vernacular. While translations are never perfect, Google’s app delivers enough to get your point across and I can be a little more reassured that the patient received and understood the information.

Dropbox
With files spread everywhere and a large part of my notes digitized, Dropbox will be a useful way for me to read up on the lectures and summaries not readily at my disposal. It brings to bear the cloud storage to broaden my access to resources that are not always from a third party.

Evernote
This app has become popular for note taking among some students. On top of the fast digitization of notes among a younger generation of medical students, the major payoff for using this app is gaining complete access to your notes when you begin clinical rotations. Reliant on dedicated note taking, attaching, and tagging, this can become very powerful when you want to refer back to your old notes. Personally I was not able to maximize the potential of this app but it is something that I think is worth checking.

Do you have a medical app that you find useful? Share it with everyone in the comments below or discuss the ones above.

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