App Wrap: Mobile Medical App Reviews

MDNG Primary Care, October 2010, Volume 12, Issue 10

Physician-written reviews of medical apps for the iPhone, Android, and other platforms.

The app reviews on this page were written by Steven Zuckerman, MD, physician editor-in-chief of MDNG: Neurology Edition.

Price: $2.99

Memory: 4.2MB

Average App Store Rating: 3.5 stars (170 ratings)

How would you like to be able to read minds, tell the future, or even control the thoughts and actions of someone else? Well, there is an app for that. Strictly speaking, iForce doesn’t really give you these abilities, but you sure can demonstrate the appearance of predicting the future or controlling thought (and perception is reality, so…). As physicians, we have specialized knowledge and understanding of the processes of brain function. Shouldn’t we be able to translate that information into extraordinary cognitive and cerebral abilities? Even though this application is not really a medical app, it can be presented in such a way that people are more likely to believe in your medical abilities. In fact, the performance of magic has its roots in the shaman, or medicine man, performing supernatural feats as a way of gaining acceptance of their healing powers. I am not suggesting you resort to this technique in your individual practice, but the CPT code for this effect is available on request.

iForce is an app that uses your iPhone (or iPod Touch or iPad) to successfully reveal your prediction of a spectator’s freely selected option. They can think of any type of item you choose, for example a number from one to eight or their favorite type of food. You write a prediction on the iPhone, and after they indicate their selection, you show them that you had successfully predicted the correct answer (or read their mind in order to get the correct information).

Of course, I can’t reveal how this is done (or I’d have to kill you). However, the method is absolutely ingenious. In fact, there is more than one way this can be accomplished using the program, making the likelihood that a spectator will figure out the method next to impossible. This app allows you to perform such a strong impression of your abilities that there was even a conspiracy among magicians to keep this program from becoming popular on the app store; they submitted one-star ratings to skew the results of the average rating seen by potential buyers to discourage purchases (see this fascinating New York Times article by tech columnist and magician David Pogue.

So, if you are not averse to having a little fun with your patients or friends, I would highly recommend iForce as the best magic app, and possibly the best overall app that exists.

Two Note-taking Apps

Why any interest in a note-taking application? In my case, it is because I vacillate between resolving to type my progress notes in the exam room as the patient is providing the history versus doing my notes later, when the patients have all been seen. I like to take handwritten notes to refer to later during transcription, but with an electronic medical record, paper notes don’t stay with the charts. So, if there is a digital form of my notes, it can be inserted into the record, or at least filed in such a way that I can always access those notes. My particular EMR does have a “jotter” function, which allows me to use a graphic board as an input device so I can scribble notes, but it is somewhat awkward. Using my iPad and a stylus, I can write on the iPad and attach the digital file to the patient chart when I am in my “dictate notes later” mood. Yes, I am using the iPad as very expensive scratch paper, but isn’t that what technology is ultimately for—taking a simple, inexpensive process and converting it into something complicated and costly?

Price: $2.99

Memory: 2.0MB

Average App Store Rating: 3.5 stars (2037 ratings)

This is a simple note-taking program that functions very well. Notes are organized into notebooks, allowing you to separate all of one day’s patients into a notebook. Writing with the stylus is easy, and the handwriting is accurate (unfortunately, the program does not make your particular handwriting more legible). You can transfer either an individual note or an entire notebook to your computer via e-mail. There are no options regarding ink color or pen size, but you can make the paper appear on your iPad as graph paper, lined paper, or plain paper. For simply recording your notes during a patient visit, this program provides all of the functionality you will need, with a simple interface.

Price: $4.99

Memory: 2.5MB

Average App Store Rating: 3.5 stars (87 ratings)

This is a more sophisticated program that simultaneously records audio and time-synchs that file to your note taking. Afterward, if you want to review what was being said at the time you wrote your note, all you have to do is tap on the digital writing or picture, and the audio portion recorded at that time replays. These features make this a useful education tool, but there is no need to do this from any medical standpoint. Besides the synchronization of notes and audio, there are several options available in this program that are not included in Penultimate. Foremost among these is the ability to type the notes. Of course, if I were comfortable typing I wouldn’t need this program in the first place. In addition, files can be transferred to your computer both by e-mail and directly from within the same wireless network, thus avoiding any e-mail security concerns. However, on my first attempts at transferring files, the system did not work, so I cannot certify that the transfer of files will take place successfully. Also, the handwriting program does not “smooth” as well as Penultimate and requires you to be more deliberate in your writing.

For a simple interface and easy note-taking abilities, I prefer the Penultimate App. However, for a business meeting or lecture situation, the AudioNote capabilities are attractive.