During your clinical rotations, it’s always nice to have a pocket pharmacopedia with you, and a reference handbook, and a calculator, and a pen light, and your textbooks… but unfortunately there are only so many things you can fit in the pockets of your white coat. Luckily, the iPhone and other smart handheld devices have applications that can replace all of these, and it’s no wonder it has become almost a must-have among med students. Here are some of the most useful apps I have discovered during my clinical rotations.
First, you’ll need a drug reference. As of 2014, the best free drug reference app out there is Epocrates (I used to recommend Micromedex but in 2014 they started requiring a paid yearly subscription). In Epocrates, you can search for any drug by generic or brand name, look up its dosing, mechanism of action, contraindications, adverse effects, trade names, and much more. It also features a drug dosage calculator as well as pill look-up. The drug information on Epocrates is completely downloaded onto your phone so you won’t need an internet connection to look up stuff, but some other features like the pill look-up requires an internet connection or data plan. The best part is it’s all free!
Besides a drug reference, you’ll also need a medical reference to look up medical conditions. Medscape is the best free medical app currently for several reasons. First, it tells you in good detail (with journal references) everything you need to know about different diseases and conditions and their managements. Second, all the information is downloaded onto your phone, meaning no loading time. Third, it’s free! It constantly updates itself with the most up-to-date information, and acts as great reading and studying material. It also has a drug reference, but it is not as comprehensive as Epocrates.
This is exactly what it sounds like.. it turns your iPhone into a flashlight, utilizing your iPhone camera’s flash. One of my internal medicine attendings used this app to test for pupillary reflex on the eye, and it works well. While having an actual pen light is still handier than pressing a whole bunch of buttons on your phone to open up this app, it’s still handy to have on those days when you forget your pen light or if it runs out of batteries. Or perhaps if you don’t have a pen light, this app can also simply be just as useful. The app is free.
There’s no doubt medicine has lots of equations, algorithms, and risk assessments, and you may use a few of them during your rotations. This app is used by many of the doctors I rotated with, and helps them make decisions on the management of patients. While Epocrates and Medscape also have medical calculators, this app has some formulas that the others may jot have. This app is also free!
As a student, textbooks and board review books are always helpful. If you are an ebook type of person, the Kindle app is great to have. Many of the med school textbooks and board review books cannot be found on Apple’s iBooks store. However, on Amazon’s Kindle store, many of the med school books are available, which you can buy and download. You can also put personal documents and free pdf ebooks and such on the Kindle app as well. On the ebooks, you can highlight, write notes, and search through your books for keywords.
Perfect Wheel is a great app for those on their OB/GYN rotations, and replaces a paper wheel used to calculate gestation. It gives thorough results, and it’s fast. It costs $1.99. Epocrates also has a pregnancy wheel but it is very basic and does not give you as much calculations as the Perfect Wheel app.
This app requires you to already have purchased access to the USMLEWorld Qbank, a very popular Qbank used by students to study for the Step exams. Having the Qbank on a phone makes practicing questions much easier, as you can practice anywhere and anytime. I definitely used this app a lot while preparing for the Step exams.
If you know of any more, feel free to add them here!