Dr Harry Brown provides his personal selection and appraisal of five ‘must-have’ apps for the busy practitioner

In the modern era of the smartphone and the tablet, we have been witnessing a new trend of websites breeding ‘apps’ which work seamlessly in these portable devices. More recently, standalone apps have been springing up with no connection to any websites, cleverly providing the user with information and entertainment, as well as performing many other tasks. Often these apps provide an invaluable service that we didn’t even know we needed in the first place.

Assuming you have a device that can read these apps, is there any advantage over websites? Generally speaking I believe there is; portability, easy use and accessibility give these apps, in many situations, the upper hand compared to traditional internet-based resources. So here is my personal list of my favourite five medical apps. For this review, I have used Apple devices (iPhone or iPad) to review the apps, all of which are available through Apple’s App store. Users of Android devices have more limited access, but some apps, as indicated, can be downloaded to these devices from Google Play. 

NICEappNICE BNF

http://www.bnf.org/bnf/

The BNF is a standard prescribing resource that is often found close to most points of patient care. As well as the widely used printed edition, both the adult and children’s BNF can be accessed via the web or an app and both need some form of registration. The app requires an Athens account (http://www.openathens.net/) and is free to authorised personnel but once installed is fast and searches quickly. It does, not surprisingly, require regular updates which are probably best to do over Wi-Fi. Both publications complement each other and having the apps either on a phone or tablet provides a trusted, formidable and very accessible prescribing support.GP usefulness 9/10
 


NICEguidanceNICE Guidance

http://www.nice.org.uk/

Love them or not, NICE do produce some helpful material which is available both as an app and from their website. Of course this being a British contribution makes it more relevant to our practice and the app works on both smartphones and tablets. Personally I find that the app allows easier access to the content compared to the website, which can sometimes be a little overwhelming. GP usefulness 8/10


BMJappBMJ iPad edition

http://www.bmj.com/

Like virtually every other medical journal or paper publication for that matter, the BMJ has migrated to the web and subsequently, with the BMJ iPad Edition to the tablet. Of course you have to be subscriber to fully access the iPad app, which can be found on the ‘newsstand’. comes down to personal preference which version you prefer, but as the years go by paper may well become less popular and replaced by digital editions. The iPad version is easy to use and read and very useful for doctors on the go; plus there is the bonus of multimedia features such as podcasts. The app also permits easy access to past issues. GP usefulness 8 out of 10


MedscapeAppMedscape

(Apple & Android)

http://www.medscape.com/

Medscape is a substantial and free medical reference source that provides good quality content available both via the app and website. The app has a very clean, neat and user friendly interface which allows access to a substantial array of resources. I particularly like the reference section where there is a drug section, interaction checker and medical calculators. The downside is of course that this is an American resource and so reflects US practice. The upside is of course it is free, elegantly designed and knee deep in content.GP usefulness 7/10


 

 qxmdappRead by QxMD

http://www.qxmd.com/apps/read-by-qxmdapp

This is an app only service and brings a large number of medical journal contents and their headlines/abstract together in a visually appealing interface. There are choices for journals and specialties to follow, with links to PubMed. The app allows the user to scan the chosen medical literature and drill down to something that captures their interest. If you have university accreditation from some UK institutions then you may be able to access the paper. Most GPs will not have that facility. GP usefulness 6 out of 10