Whether it's calculating gentamicin doses, checking the latest guidelines or practicing MCQs the smartphone has become an essential piece of medical kit for working on the move. As the number of medical apps breaks through the 10,000 barrier we test out the best apps for work, rest and play.
iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile
This is one of those apps that has the potential to change the world – or at least make on-calls a lot less painful.
AirStrip allows you to securely view live streaming patient monitoring data from wherever you are. You can check in on your patients and review their vitals, cardiac waveforms, labs, medications, intakes and outputs, and allergies - all within seconds of when they were recorded.
Unfortunately it does require your hospital to have purchased and installed AirStrip but this now spreading across the US and making a presence in the UK. In the meantime there is a demo built into the mobile app to let you see the potential of this new technology.
iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile
Medscape is produced by US healthcare company WebMD but don't let the American background put you off. This mobile app recorded has over a 1 million users and was the most downloaded free medical app from iTunes in 2010.
As well as the standard news and alerts you can choose the specialities relevant to you for personalised content updated daily. You can view the prescribing information for 8,000+ brand and generic drugs – and impressively pill images for when you can't work out what's what.
There are over 600 educational videos over 4000 learning articles to keep you busy between ward rounds, including a CME library. What's also clever about this app is that both the clinical reference and drug database can be accessed anywhere without an internet connection or Wifi.
Overall it's an indispensable app with so many functions you will forgive all the Americanisms.
£2.99 per issue
Reading medical journals has never been a pleasant experience – there are the never-ending pages of text, tiny data tables and hours spent scanning through to find what you need. Then the iPad arrived.
No medical journal has managed to do the transition to the iPad as well as the BMJ. It's graphical, well-organised and the research is a joy to read. As well as the full content from the weekly version you'll also find the blogs, podcasts and videos from BMJ.com
If you're a BMA member you can get your iPad verion of the journal for free – otherwise it's an expensive £2.99 per issue.
Although we wouldn't suggest you pull out your iPhone at the next resus you attend we do think this is an excellent app for reviewing the guidelines. Produced by the UK Resuscitation Council it provides the latest guidance on your phone.
It's automatically updated when guidelines are reviewed and you can also choose to receive alerts and news. Overall it's a simple app well executed.
We love this app. It's a game that lets you investigate, deduce and diagnose complex clinical cases on your smartphone. Each case takes a few minutes and helpfully includes some learning points for each scenario you complete.
Although the cases are aimed at board exams in the US you'll find most of them suitable for UK specialties – though we did find many of them a little simplistic. It's a great way to make use of those spare 10 minutes in the hospital mess or on the bus after a night on call.
A new case is added every weekend so it's the app which you'll keep on using.
iPhone, iPad, Android
A great free mobile app which brings Micromedex to your smartphone - a comprehensive source of drug information similar to the software and web versions. There are over 4500+ search terms covering all generic and trade prescriptions.
As well as the standard information you'd expect there is comprehensive contraindications, dosage and pharmacokinetic information.
iPhone, Android, Blackberry
It's technically more of an online service than an iPhone application but d2u allows you to dictate speech and get an accurate typed version by a human within an hour. It's perfect for lazy doctors who don't have access to a NHS secretary.
Although we don't recommend using it for patient information the service is reputed to be secure with 128 bit encryption. For short dictations of less than 5 minutes you should received your text back within an hour - more than 5 minutes your completed files will be returned within 24hrs. The cost of dictation is £1.55 per minute of text.
Visible Body is a 3D human anatomy app which allows you to explore the human body in a completely different way. The graphics in this anatomy app are stunning and the experience is unlike anything you could find in a traditional textbook.
There are over 2,500 structures which can be rotated, tilted and zoomed. Each has detailed shading allowing you to easily see different structures within the male and female models.
The app also has a useful search function which makes revising for exams much easier.
iPhone, Android, Windows, Palm, Blackberry
iPhone 68p, Android 64p, Windows FREE, Palm FREE, Blackberry FREE
Diagnosaurus allows you to search over 1,000 differential diagnoses by organ system, symptom, disease, or browse all entries to help you reach an accurate diagnosis. Alongside each differential you'll see the others to allow you to compare.
That's it – nothing else – but it's simple and effective.
iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry
iPhone/iPad 69p, Android £3.02, Blackberry $9.99
One of the most frustrating things about being a doctor is having to learn and interpret ECG traces. We're still waiting for an app that eliminates the need completely but in the meantime ECG Guide will help you to improve your interpretation.
We found it a really useful learning aid as it introduces the approach to ECG interpretation and covers analysis of rate, rhythm, axis and waveforms . There are over 200 examples of common and uncommon ECGs and it has a comprehensive section on arrthymias.
Once you've mastered reading ECGs there are 100+ multiple-choice questions to test your understanding and a 'rapid reference section' to help when you encounter difficult ECGs in clinical practice.
Not strictly for doctors but we were very impressed by this app from NHS Direct. It allows patients to check their symptoms when feeling unwell and then offers advice on how to look after themselves whilst ill. If they need input from an expert they complete some questions and one of the NHS Direct team calls them back. It's not quite telehealth but a good step forward from the traditional NHS Direct service.
The app also offers a personalised guide to improving your health though we didn't find this quite as useful.