Just as medical technology is advancing, so too is the technology in the mobile devices we use daily. As they become more powerful, they are better able to handle more complex applications that can significantly benefit us as providers. It is often easier and more convenient to look up information on our phone than on a computer.
As a result, I have compiled the most helpful applications I have come across in my career as a resident and now as an attending. To be inclusive, this list contains applications available on both iOS and Android. The order listed is not meant to represent importance in that category and I do not receive any financial compensation for any of the apps listed below.
Best Free Apps
- MDCalc – MDCalc is well known among most providers that is helpful in both outpatient and inpatient settings. It has a plethora of calculators useful for primary care providers and specialists, such as fractional excretion of sodium, hepatic encephalopathy grading, MELD, and CHA2DS2VASC. What makes this calculator superior to most other offerings is the detailed information about the functionality of calculator itself, including recommendations on when to use it, utilization pearls, and assistance with interpretation of the results.
- Read by QxMD – Read by QxMD collects medical literature from multiple sources you’ve selected and displays it in a Pinterest-style format to ensure you are keeping up to date with only the journals that are relevant to you. You can also link to either your individual or institutional subscription so that you are able to quickly access the full text version of the articles. You are also able to read the abstract before deciding if you want to read more about that publication. I have yet to come across a similar application or website with the breadth of databases and journals that QxMD has. Furthermore, you can create “collections” to share with others. Many of these are topic based; you can create a collection on critical care literature and only add relevant critical care journals, as one example. If you come across a journal that interests you, and want to share it, easy social and email linking capabilities are present.
- Epocrates – The Epocrates application is a powerful free reference for continually updated clinical data. Even if you, or your institution, pay for popular reference sources such as UpToDate or DynaMed, Epocrates still warrants a view as its graphical user interface is clean and easy to navigate. Along with clinical reference information, you can also access a drug-to-drug interaction checker, identify pills by physical characteristics (which is very handy when your patients can describe pills they are taking, but don’t know their exact name), and perform medical calculations (similar to MDCalc, but not as robust). I have yet to come across similar pill identifiers, which is why I continue to use this application, as it proves handy when admitting patients to the hospital and performing a medication reconciliation. One feature that will come in handy is its database of alternative medications. With the use of over-the-counter supplements increasing in popularity as patients attempt to decrease their dependence on prescribed medications, it is hard to keep up with the many potential interactions with other supplements or their prescribed medications they may have.
- GoodRx – GoodRx burst onto the scene around 2011, and currently boasts usage of more than 350,000 providers. The app provides a quick way to look up costs for medications based on out-of-pocket costs versus insured costs. Patients can use the app to get the discount when they go to the pharmacy for their medication. It is important for patients to know they cannot combine any cost on the site with their private insurance. Many of my patients are on Medicaid or Medicare, and because of this I try to find discounts on any prescribed medications through GoodRx.
- Radiology Rounds – It is imperative that my fellow primary care providers and I keep up on as many skills as possible. We are on the front lines of care, making the initial diagnosis in most of our patients. As a result, we are commonly ordering radiographic imaging. Furthermore, we have patients who may have been seen at an urgent care center, emergency room, or admitted to the hospital, and have imaging that is pending for review. I have taught my residents not to solely rely on the radiological report but to look at the imaging themselves. To maintain knowledge on how to review imaging, Radiology Rounds–which is designed for radiologists, provides free cases that are reviewed by editors at Harvard University to help assist with diagnosis. This can be a valuable resource to keep up with interesting cases and boost your knowledge on interpreting radiographs.
Best Paid Apps
- VisualDx – It is okay to admit that dermatology may not necessarily be your strongest area if you’re a non-dermatologist. Throughout residency and into my first deployment, when I would have someone present with a rash I would definitely cringe. Now, since I have been using VisualDx, my confidence has increased significantly. VisualDx has made discovering skin conditions, dare I say, fun. I actually use it alongside my patients to see what we can discover together. With an easy-to-use interface, you start answering questions such as the location of the lesion, its morphological characteristics, and then eventually it will give you a list of conditions that match your criteria. What I think makes it more powerful, however, is the detailed information provided on each disease process, with pathology, differentials, as well as treatment options (with doses).
- DynaMed – DynaMed is a powerful reference website and app that allows you to look up common medical conditions, medications (doses, pharmacokinetics, pregnancy categories), and access calculators (similar to MDCalc). They are constantly revising information to keep up with changing medical literature. Information can be downloaded to your phone for off-line referencing. They utilize a bulleted format to present information that some may find easier to navigate through the phone. All information is referenced with links directly to PubMed.
- UpToDate – This is a well-known medical reference/resource similar to DynaMed in its offerings (calculators, medication library, etc.). UpToDate also provides an off-line version for times that you may not have access to reliable internet. All information is referenced with links directly to PubMed..
- AudioDigest – For those who commute to work and are in the car for 20 minutes or more, AudioDigest is a great resource to utilize. It does require a paid subscription, but if you, or you institution has one, you are able to access a vast library of recorded conference lectures from around the United States on topics that range from internal medicine, to obstetrics, surgery, and others. If you have an individual subscription, you can earn CME as well. The lectures are typically 40 minutes long and allow you to beef up your medical knowledge while driving–and earn CME at the same time.
- Johns Hopkins ABX Guide – A comprehensive reference app, Johns Hopkins ABX Guide allows you to search for information on medications and treatments for various illnesses. Plug in a drug and see a list of recommended dosages, side effects, and restrictions on behavior while a patient is taking it. The app also offers evidence-based recommendations, giving you a better idea of whether a medication is right for your particular lifestyle. However, the best feature remains the comprehensive table that breaks down drug costs.