When Apple launched the App Store, Epocrates had a front seat at the table and collaborated with Apple to make sure its software would be one of the first available for iPhone users.
As medical professionals, this didn’t come as a surprise. We expected Epocrates to be “the first.” It has been the undisputed king of medical and mobile before the word “apps” became everyday vernacular. Epocrates was dominating the medical app ecosystem before iOS existed. Most medical professionals I knew in the early 2000s had a Palm device not because they wanted a PDA, but because they had to have the Epocrates app.
So when Epocrates was the first comprehensive medical app to make the transition to iOS, it felt its dominance would continue.
Unfortunately, over the last few years it’s clear Epocrates is no longer the innovator it once was, and has almost become completely irrelevant to medical professionals. Here are just three reasons why.
1. Lack of an iPad app
Epocrates claims to have 50% of U.S. physicians using its software, and over 1 million active members, yet it still do not have an iPad app. I know of medical practices that refuse to use Epocrates mobile suites because of the lack of an iPad centric app. Sure, you can technically use the iPhone app on the iPad, but if you pay in excess of $150 a year for a subscription, you should expect an iPad optimized app as well.
This lack of functionality is borderline disrespectful to medical professionals who purchase an expensive license to the app.
Epocrates didn’t even make our Top 10 iPad medical apps list because of the lack of iPad functionality. If you want a full featured prescription drug app, use Medscape or Micromedex on the iPad. There was a time that Epocrates used to be the most downloaded medical app in the app store, now it’s Medscape. (Currently the Epocrates app is trending as the most downloaded, but that’s due to the free promotion it is running for medical students this week.)
Although Epocrates does offer subtle premium features that aren’t matched by Medscape, for almost all physicians, Medscape and a combination of other medical apps easily replace Epocrates' functionality.
2. Whatever happened to their Electronic Health Record?
We did a demo review of Epocrates' EHR last year, and at that time were told we could expect the EHR to launch sometime this year. Instead, Epocrates announced that it would be selling off its EHR business to focus more on the mobile business.
This focus on the mobile business has not been evident in the latest product offerings. We haven’t seen any revolutionary changes to its mobile offerings. The company did do a reboot to it overall UI almost a year ago, emulating the old Facebook UI, but that reboot was met with complaints from users about the app slowing down in speed.