There's a vast selection of labs and tests available in medicine, so remembering and interpreting the reference values for every test, or matching a patient's clinical presentation up with the required diagnostic tests can be hard, not only for seasoned clinicians but also for junior physicians and residents.
Knowing when to order labs is another important issue for healthcare professionals. Ordering unnecessary labs mean increasing costs for the patient. However, omitting lab tests could lead to a missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.
Finally, once the lab tests are complete, how can you tell if the results are abnormal?
Questions like these will often come up in medical practice, and clinicians and other healthcare professionals need to be prepared, whether they're inexperienced residents or seasoned physicians.
Having the correct lab values with you at all times is the solution for this. It was made possible thanks to the variety of mobile apps designed to help healthcare professionals with lab interpretations and other relevant information.
Quick LabRef that we review today is one of those apps. The app's developers claim that it is a basic reference app that provides a quick look at the information on the most commonly used clinical lab values. However, there's more under the hood of this app.
First, Quick LabRef is available for free. Most apps interpreting lab values require payment. But, Quick LabRef doesn't, except through voluntary sponsorship (if you like the app).
Truth is that the app is only available on Android devices, but this doesn't diminish its value.
Next thing is that app covers almost all known standard lab tests delivered in several categories, which are visible upon opening the app and include blood and non-blood tests, microbiology, toxicology, genetics and pregnancy, normal and pathophysiology, and miscellaneous.
Each of these categories contains specific tests. For example, blood tests include common blood tests, such as adult and pediatric CBC, WBC morphology, sickle cell screen, non-blood tests include labs for other types of fluids or markers, such as amniotic fluid, sputum analysis, Alzheimer's disease markers, and so on.
These tests contain values and information, which are provided in a concise manner in a form of text, tables, graphs, and images.
Upon opening the tests, users are usually presented with values in conventional units (CU) and SI units, with data for age (adults and children), or males and females.
The additional information explains the test, mechanisms, results, etiologies the test is used for, or provides images, as in screenshots example for three basic types of leukocytes.
The thing that surprised me (and impressed me) about this app is that it doesn't only includes information on standard tests, but also on less common tests.
There are literary dozens of lab tests, values, and information in Quick LabRef app, which makes it a perfect pocket companion for interpreting lab tests and values.
Besides lab test categories which are the key components of the app, there are other categories that are equally impressive. For example, Microbiology category that provides exhaustive information on bacterial culture, zoonoses, common pathogens, basic virus taxonomy, etiological lab Dx tables, and more.
Toxicology category, as it names suggests, provides information on various types of toxicities, drug levels, Tylenol's pediatric dosage, US spider chart, information on US venomous snakes, etc.
Genetics and Pregnancy category provides information about genetic tests, screenings, and techniques (prenatal and newborn), a chart explaining gene loci of diseases, a guideline for hCG levels, and more.
Normal/Pathophysiology contains various equations, such as creatinine clearance or GI equations, calculators (Glasgow Coma Scale), ECG interpretations, vital signs, information on autoimmune diseases, and more.
The last category, named Miscellaneous contains other information related to lab tests or not, including types of blood collecting tubes, unit conversion table, IV solution chart, common medical abbreviations, medical history template, admission orders, etc.
The users can also use the search option, which is available right on the main screen and features an autocomplete function that makes the search easier (if you know what you're looking for). However, I've noticed that once you've entered a test, Search becomes useless.
The app developers mentioned this as a limitation, explaining that the search is still under development, so I won't consider this a downside, same as abnormal values that are not available for all tests in the app.
From everything I've seen, Quick LabRef indeed looks like an amazing app providing healthcare providers with a plethora of information on lab values, as well as with useful charts, calculators, tools, and guidelines.
However, the app omitted one important thing that developers didn't mention as a purposeful limitation. There are no references to the source(s) used for lab values and medical content within the app.
This one is a big deal. Especially, because the app has a great potential of becoming a serious clinical reference tool and one of the top medical apps available.
Another drawback is that the app is available only on Android platform (although not on all devices). A lot of clinicians use iPhone and iPad in their practice and they would certainly benefit from the app like Quick LabRef.
Overall, Quick LabRef is a great app that offers plenty of features for free. However, it's one step away from being perfect due to lack of references to lab values and medical content. Let's hope that the authors would add them in one of the future updates.
Benefit: Extremely useful app for any medical professional, but only after verifying that the lab values and other medical information inside the app are accurate