Medical Apps – Making Life Just That Little Bit Easier

Posted on January 27, 2013

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This guest post was written by Niqui Stubbs.  Niqui is a 4th year medical student from Leeds, who in her spare time enjoys writing about make-up and fashion at her blog “Confessions of an Addict” – you can also follow Niqui on Twitter (@NiquiB_).

   So, I’ve made it to 4th year. There were times when I wasn’t sure I would, many times actually; mostly when confronted by a consultant with a question about a syndrome I have never heard of and a drug that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist in front of a patient who is expecting me to be reciting this stuff like a book….

4th year is the year every medical student has nightmares about; it is the first year where you are actually expected to know things. But every cloud has a silver lining right? This year it definitely did. To accompany me on my final 2 years of being a student I received a shiny new iPhone from my medical school to use as a ‘learning tool.’ My Blackberry just wasn’t cutting it these days so this upgrade made me positively ecstatic, and not because I was going to use it to further my education. We were asked to download a few apps as to use as resources but I didn’t get round to doing that for 2 weeks because Siri was occupying my free time. When I did finally get round to doing it though I found that these apps really do come in handy! They are great for convincing your consultant that you know everything because you can look up the patient’s condition on the ward round before he has chance to turn on you with his questions that he is hoping you will not know the answer to. I have found that they really help to consolidate your learning too, as you tend take things in more when you are looking things up as you see the patient.

I have just finished my paediatric placement and really have found my iPhone invaluable. Please remember though that apps are not a substitute for good medical knowledge and common sense, they are merely a reference; otherwise you could find yourself being sued for medical negligence in the future. These are some of the apps that were recommended to me by other students and even the odd consultant.

1.      Medscape

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Click to enlarge.

Medscape was the first app I downloaded as it was recommended by my registrar on my first day. It is a very useful one to have as you can look at recent healthcare news articles (it makes you more appealing to consultants if you are up to date with current knowledge,) educational articles and it was also be used to look for credible references. I have used Medscape for a while now, especially when trying to find references for a literature review, and was really happy to find it as an app. I find it particularly useful when it comes to looking up specific conditions as it is really easy to navigate.

2.      The New England Journal of Medicine

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Click to enlarge.

This fits in again with the theme of keeping up to date with the news and with current affairs. It shows their articles from the past 7 days, and just having a glance through once a week means you will have something to bring up with one of your senior doctors which will make you sound pretty keen and interested.

It also has a section for images and one for video, which I actually came across by accident but found very helpful. Every week new videos are put up, mostly showing you how different procedures should be carried out correctly. You may not need to know all of these procedures at this level but it is good to be aware of them for future reference.

3.      Pocket ECG

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Click to enlarge.

I have come to terms with the fact that the ECG may just be something that I am never going to get. This app was recommended to me by a junior doctor who has the same passionate distaste for ECGs (good to know I’m not the only one,) and I have found it helps with the understanding.

There are headings of a number of different abnormalities that can show up on an ECG, then those lead to a picture of what the ECG would look like and an explanation. I also find this useful as a reference; when I am handed an ECG and given 5 minutes to interpret it I try first to think of what it can be and then compare it with the picture on the app. There is also a quiz on there which really helps you to see whether you are gaining an understanding or not.

4.      Mobile MIM and Vue Me

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Click to enlarge.

These apps were made by the same company and are actually quite ingenious. The Mobile MIM allows physicians to look at radiographs on a mobile device (yes I have actually seen radiographers carrying iPads around to confer with other doctors) and allows you to look at the images in incredible detail. You can zoom in and even adjust the lighting so that you can see specific structures more clearly. There are some sample patients on there too so you can also use it as an educational tool.

Now here’s the clever bit; Vue Me is an app which is used by patients so that physicians can transfer their scans them to be viewed on a mobile device. This is done via ‘Breeze’ and allows these high resolution images to be sent via bluetooth or wifi. The app has also taken data protection into account as all images are encrypted when they are sent and you need a pass code to open them. This really is leading the way for patient centred medicine, where the patient is involved in all aspects of their care.

 5.      Radiology 2.0: One Night in The ED

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Click to enlarge.

Keeping with the theme of radiology, this app talks you through cases that common in A&E, using a CT image to illustrate. You try to work out the diagnosis yourself and then can choose to read the discussion.

6.      Prognosis: Your Diagnosis

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Click to enlarge.

Ill admit it; I downloaded this app because it looked fun, but it is actually a really good revision tool! It gives you case studies and you have to work through different parts of the consultation to decide what investigations to do, work out a differential diagnosis and then form a management plan. In 4th year it really is important to get into the habbit of thinking about management plans, because in under 2 years we will be expected to be able to make them for ourselves.

7.      Psych Terms

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Click to enlarge.

I have my psychiatric placement next and the thought of it terrifies me. Not because I am not interested in psych, but because there are so many words that I just do not understand! This acts as a quick reference for all of those words and phrases psychiatrists like to throw around to make themselves sound profound. Much quicker than looking it up in a book, and the definitions are really concise and easy to understand.

In no other speciality could you see the words ‘psychic abilities,’ ‘life after death’ and ‘scientific’ be used to describe an aspect of it. The next 6 weeks could be very interesting…

8.      Visual Anatomy Lite

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Click to enlarge.

I haven’t done anatomy or cadaver dissection since 2nd year, so I sometimes find it difficult to remember what does where…particularly when it comes to the bones and muscles.

This app is a good visual guide and although I use it to refresh my memory you could also use it as a learning tool to test yourself with as you can remove the name tags.

As you can see, some of the images are quite detailed and you can zoom in if you need to. There is also a section for images from Gray’s anatomy, which I have found are among the best for education and revision.

9.      Micromedex

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Click to enlarge.

This is a drug reference app and the easiest one to use that I have come across. I am often asked to look up a particular drug on the ward rounds but there always seems to be a shortage of BNFs around. You simply type in the drug and it tells you everything about it, including drug interactions and contraindications, which are essential to know about before you actually prescribe anything. It was actually a pharmacist who recommended this to me so if its good enough for them its good enough for me!

10.  Camera

Ok, so this technically is not an app, but it may be the most useful thing I have on my phone. As a medical student you are never still for more than one minute. I often see something I would like to look at again for teaching purposes but do not have the time to write it all down (such as a useful diagram or table in a book,) so I have started to take pictures of them and put them in a separate folder. There may also be times when you see a patient with an interesting condition, and you would like to document the physical conditions so that you are more likely to remember the case at a later date (this is good for revision). You have to be very careful here though, patient safety and confidentiality is something you much always strive to uphold, so before you take a picture of them OK it with their attending doctor or nurse first, make sure you don’t have any identifiable features in the photo (such as their face, wristband or an unusual tattoo) and of course ask the patient if it is OK! Many will be happy to help you with your learning, but some may find their condidtion a sensitive topic, so tread carefully.

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Posted in: Medicine