Readers of the iMedicalApps forums will have seen that Evernote was rated particularly highly by a number of commenters when asked ‘How do you use mobile technology to help with your studies?’ As a result of this, I was encouraged to try Evernote out for an extended period and see what impact it could make upon my learning.
I am pleased to say that I have now had enough time to explore Evernote and can now highly recommend it as one of the best note-taking apps for medical purposes.
So without further ado…
What is Evernote?
Evernote is an app available on a wide range of devices, including desktop, web, Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Windows 7, that allows you to ‘Capture anything.’ The idea is that you can make and save notes on the go and add a variety of media to each note. Each note is part of a notebook.
There is an excellent search function whereby you can search by keyword, tag or even printed and handwritten text inside images. Evernote is constantly synced and backed up to the cloud. There is a free version with a limited upload capacity and premium version that gives you significantly more upload capacity.
When it comes to creating notes on Evernote, there is a considerable range of options available including text entry, photos, attachments, audio recording, location-based information, calendar links, email and tags.
With all these options available to create notes, you should be able to find a method that works for you. Evernote have recently purchased Penultimate, so we expect to see the ability to make notes with a stylus come to Evernote soon.
Tags are one of the more powerful features of Evernote. When you create/edit a note, you can add or remove tags. These are keywords associated with your note that link notes on different subjects (very similar to Twitter hashtags). An example would be to tag any notes that have instructions on how to carry out physical exams as ‘Exam.’
Now while the note for a cardiovascular exam and a knee exam would be located in different notebooks, clicking on the tag ‘Exam’ would show both notes. This is useful as it allows you to build up a very powerful search database that is accessible on the go.
One of the potential weaknesses in Evernote's notetaking abilities is its handling of PDFs. Currently, it is not possible to annotate or edit PDFs attached to a particular note. Instead, I recommend using one of our top PDF notetaking apps and then using the ‘share’ button to open in Evernote, which will create a new note with the PDF as an attachment.
Another alternative, which is quite handy, is to use your Evernote email address. When you sign up for an Evernote account you are given an email address that will automatically add anything sent to it. The easiest way to do this is to add this address as a contact in your address book and title it Evernote (see screenshot). Then it is quite simple to forward anything to this address by simply typing ‘Evernote’ into the “To” field.
The free version of Evernote, only allows access to online notebooks, which means that you need to have internet connectivity in order to view your notes. Upgrading to the premium version of Evernote removes this limit and allows you to store offline notebooks.
How can I use Evernote in day-to-day practice?
The genius of Evernote is its integral cloud sync and ability to access notes from anywhere. Evernote has numerous applications for health care professionals and is flexible enough to be adapted to everyone's individual needs.
What I describe below is the method that I have found to be most successful:
When you first set up Evernote, I would set up a series of Notebooks and Notebook Stacks. A Stack is a fancy way of saying a collection. I have created a Stack for Medicine and a notebook for each subject area within it. I have also created a ‘holding’ notebook where any notes I make throughout the day will be synced.
In daily use, I create a new note everytime I see a patient, have a discussion with one of the doctors, attend a lecture or encounter any new medical situation that I haven’t seen before. I make the title of the note the topic and then make brief notes that are appropriate to the situation. This can include things such as key signs and symptoms or perhaps a clinical pearl of high-yield information.
Using the advanced features of Evernote, it is possible to record audio or even take photographs. Obviously, it is important to check hospital policy and obtain consent before taking any photos and be very wary of recording any patient identifiable features/data (more on that below).
As I go through the day, I often end up accumulating anywhere between five to 15 notes. As Evernote stores all this information in the cloud, it automatically downloads itself to my computer when I turn it on. I can then go through each note and ‘fill it out’ using information from a wide range of sources, including UpToDate, textbooks, lectures and any other sources of information. Building my notes the evening that I first learnt/encountered a particular topic means that I reinforce the learning that I did before.
For more functions of Evernote, read more.