In this edition of Tech Notes, we’ll cover three great medical apps that can make you into a more efficient physician: MDCalc, Ottawa Rules and SmartIntern Sepsis. Each of these apps is focused on helping health care providers practice evidence-based medicine. In addition to providing a wealth of information, these apps can be used quickly at the point of care. All of these apps are also free to download and use.
It’s hard to find a practicing physician who hasn’t been to MDCalc.com. The popular physician-run website is a go-to for finding medical calculators and clinical decision tools. Thanks to a recent release, the website is now available as an app, also called MDCalc.
This app is now a must-have for any physician; it provides access to nearly every type of medical calculator or decision tool. Although popular clinical decision apps such as Medscape, UpToDate and DynaMed also have their own calculators, MDCalc makes the process much easier because it lets you enter data into decision tools with just one click.
What further separates MDCalc from other medical calculator apps is the amount of evidence-based medicine it teaches. Every clinical decision tool within the app has a section dedicated to the evidence behind the actual equation. Some clinical decision calculators within the app - such as Wells’ Criteria - even have direct quotes from the tool’s creators.
The app is currently free, but in the past the developers have mentioned in its App Store description that they may charge for it in the future.
Ways the app could improve. Unfortunately this app is currently unavailable on Android.
Key ways to use the app. You will no longer need to search for decision tools on Google or on the actual MDCalc.com website. The app loads quickly, and you can use its search function to find the clinical decision tool or medical calculator you want. I would also recommend using this app to learn more about clinical decision tools. If you’re a physician new to the iPhone, this is definitely the most important medical app to download.
In medical school every physician gets taught the decision tools related to the Ottawa rules, which include C-spine, knee and ankle rules. Instead of having to look up these clinical decision tools online, you can now access the Ottawa rules from this free app provided by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute itself.
Though the app can be used simply to access the tools, it’s much more than that. The app also has videos and commentary that provide a wealth of information about the rules. The videos in particular are a great touch because they explain in great detail the nuances behind the rules.
Ways the app could improve. Overall the app is slick, but it would be helpful if it gave you access to the criteria more quickly. Right now it’s faster to use the MDCalc app or another medical calculator’s decision tools at the point of care. The Ottawa Rules app does, however, contain a wealth of valuable information that still makes it a critical download for those who use these tools.
Key way to use the app. At this time the best way to use this app is for educational purposes. The app is free to download. There are some great figures and algorithms included, and the videos, though not flashy, provide contain great content.
Earlier this year a consensus group published changes to the definition of sepsis in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), calling for a move away from systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria in favor of the sequential organ failure assessment score. Also known as "Sepsis 3.0," this is the first set of new guidelines since 2003.
The SmartIntern Sepsis app takes the new sepsis guidelines and puts them into easily understandable formats. It also has built-in calculators. In addition, the app has educational aspects to it, helping health care providers better understand the new guidelines. There is some controversy surrounding the Sepsis 3.0 guidelines, so it would be prudent for health care providers to read the JAMA study in detail.
Ways the app could improve. Though this app isn’t as popular as MDCalc, it, too, is not available for Android devices.
Key ways to use the app. If you are trying to implement the new Sepsis 3.0 guidelines, this app will help you calculate scores and learn the new algorithms. This app is focused on emergency medicine physicians, critical care physicians and hospitalists.
Iltifat Husain, M.D., is the editor-in-chief and founder of iMedicalApps.com, the leading physician publication on digital medicine, and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.