Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry

Price: Free

What is it?
The medscape app tries to be the ultimate mobile reference tool, and it’s free. It’s aimed at medical professionals and offers three main sections:
-          A drugs / drug interactions
-          A Diseases and conditions
-          A Procedures and protocols
Within these are information on every drug, disease and protocol imaginable, (over 4,000 on diseases alone) presented in easy-to-read phone format, but you will need to sign up for a (free) Medscape account before you can access the whole database.
The idea sounds great – the ultimate textbook in an app on your phone. Perhaps I had too high expectations, especially after friends had recommended it, but for me the app itself just seems a little underwhelming.
It’s really great for looking something up quickly. The search works really well, and predicts (like google instant on the web) what you are trying to look for. It all downloads all the articles to your phone (except the images and videos) so you don’t need internet access when you use it – which is great for the patchy signal in my hospital, and also useful if you just have an ipod touch, or a wifi only phone.
But, each disease is divided into so many subheadings, I get frustrated just trying to actually reach an article, and find the right section for the information I want. Some articles are really long and detailed, and others too short to contain enough useful information. I was hoping for an ‘Oxford handbook’ app, but instead, its more like an encyclopaedia.
It’s fine for a quick check-up of a condition on the ward or on the bus, but I wouldn’t want to use it to make notes from, and certainly not to base my practice on as an FY1 (as you might from the oxford handbook). You also have to be wary that as the app is American, diagnosis, management and protocols may not be the same as those in use in the NHS.
The drug interaction tool however, is really useful on the ward. Just tap in some drug names and any known interaction pop-up right away. All without the need for a live internet connection.
The Medscape app is almost brilliant. It aims high, and just about pulls it off. It’s useful to have, particularly when you can’t get online and just want to quickly check something , but the navigation is frustrating, the style and organisation of the content is not particularly well tailored to medical students and I’ve found that in practice, I just don’t use it that often.
It’s great for free, and is a good complement to other resources, but it won’t replace any of your textbooks.
Review by Tom Leach
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