Finding good medical reference resources is one of the most important things to healthcare professionals and medical students. Having these resources available all the time is another important aspect.
Mobile advancements made both things possible by allowing medical providers to access the best medical resources just by reaching into their pockets. Information on how to diagnose, treat and manage conditions and patients was now at their fingertips.
A lot of these medical reference apps are paid, requiring either annual subscription or one-time payment, such as Dynamed or UpToDate. Others allow their users to download and test their app for free (which is usually limited in features), before purchasing full version, such as Epocrates app we already reviewed here on SteadyHealth.
One of the apps that also allow users to have a glance at its features via limited free preview is 5-Minute Clinical Consult (5MCC) app developed by Unbound Medicine. The app is supposed to provide healthcare providers quick access to the information on how to diagnose, treat, and follow up with patients, as well as information on medications and associated conditions.
The app contains over 1,100 medical conditions and 200 pediatric topics, over 100 full-color dermatology images, ICD-10 codes, and Diagnosaurus with more than 1,000 differential diagnoses, which is also available as a separate medical app. 5MCC app also includes 150+ algorithm diagrams to quickly diagnose a potential medical condition. The Unbound Medicine also allows users to access the 5MCC website, which offers the same features as the app.
All of these features are only available if you buy full version of the app for $99.95. The app however, allows users to try it using free preview before purchase.
For the purpose of this review, we've also tried a free preview of 5MCC app, to see if it's really crucial, must-have and up-to-date medical reference guidance, as being advertised by its creators.
The free preview doesn't impress. Out of thousand topics advertised, only a small portion is available for free. It would be better if the full-app was made available for free for a limited period of time, which would provide better insight in what users can expect. This way it offers pretty much limited preview. But what does impress is the fact that 5 Minute Clinical Consult app cover almost every condition known.
The app opens to a simple menu, which is basically a list that includes topics, i.e. conditions, medications, codes (ICD-9, ICD-10 and SNOMED), algorithms, images and 2014 immunization recommendations, as well as portions of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations.
Tapping on topic opens a list of conditions, listed alphabetically. This is where 5MCC app cheats. Here, it also lists algorithms, which can be accessed from the main screen (they have their own category). It makes the actual list of conditions looks bigger, which is 'not cool.' I didn't count all topics, so I can't tell if there is indeed 1,100 conditions in this list.
Same goes for codes or medications sections. Tap on any available medication in the list and the app will take you to the condition it treats. That would be ok if the app actually highlights the medication you've searched for, or if it takes you directly to the medication section within the topic. Instead, it just opens the topic and leaves you to scroll down to the medication, which could be confusing.
Once in topics section, you can select a condition by either scrolling down, or using the search function that is both fast and accurate. It will also prevent you from typing in the letter that won't return any entry, which is neat.
Topics provide great amount of information on particular condition, covering anything from condition basics, which include description, epidemiology, etiology and pathophysiology, and risk factors, to diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care recommendations, as well as codes.
Topics are well-referenced, linking to bibliography or additional reading materials within the topic. These source materials also link to journal articles that can be opened within the app, which is really great feature.
As said, medications and codes sections on the main screen basically open the same topic sections, which literally make them redundant. It would be better if medications provide more info about the medication itself, dosing and frequencies. Instead they're just mentioned in the treatment section, without providing any further detail.
Algorithm section is another part of this app that left me confused. Although being advertised as the most impressive feature of the app for quickly diagnosing medical conditions, the algorithm is the word used loosely here. The 5MCC app doesn't work as the decision support tool and it doesn't provide any built-in calculators, based on any algorithm that would allow users to input values or make choices in order to get the results.
The algorithms provided in this app are actually just flowchart diagrams, allowing users to narrow down medical symptoms in order to diagnose a condition. As diagrams, they work well, you can zoom them in, which works nice even on smaller screens.
The image collection covers dermatology conditions, with lot of them repeat themselves, such as various types of melanoma that opens the same section containing the same images. You can zoom in the images using the magnifier icon or your fingers, to see more details. But, the images are not high-quality.
You can add each topic into favorites for easier access from the main screen. Also, the app allows you to add notes by highlighting the portions of text, which is very useful feature, especially for students and interns.
What didn't impress is the lack of share options. Also, the interface, although fast, look pretty outdated. It looks like the design dates back to 2009 when the app was released.
The free preview doesn't include pediatric conditions, as well as Diagnosaurus, which can be downloaded as a separate app.
Overall, the 5MCC app is a mixed bag. It does provide thousands of topics, with great share of information that is well-referenced.
However, for $99.95 it would be nice to see more intuitive and interactive interface, with more decision support functionalities and built-in calculators that would put those 'algorithms' into use.
Benefit: Healthcare providers who need useful, well-referenced, but overpriced medical reference app, with a lot of room for improvement