Certainly, smart phones have helped physicians improve access to critical information and to more efficiently interact with clinical systems and colleagues: core components of patient safety. More and more, clinicians count on smartphone apps to assist with more and more of their workload.

On average, smartphone owners have 30 apps downloaded, and regularly use nine of them (not including native apps like email, maps, calendar, etc.). A few become essential; some are handy; others are fun. Of course, many apps fail to impress us and so we delete them and search for a better one. The supply is nearly endless.

Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android) list more than 10,000 “Medical” apps. Even excluding those designed to help the general public manage health care concerns, thousands are targeted at health care providers. Some address fairly obscure interests, but the majority aim to improve one’s ability to keep up with the exponential growth of medical information and make it easier to take care of patients.

Around the world, clinicians have voted with their thumbs on the apps that meet that goal. A handful (e.g., Epocrates, UpToDate, Merck Manual, Figure 1) are now mainstays; the rest are less well known. Below are nine apps that may not be on your radar, but might be worth a try.

Nine Apps to Know

Skyscape Medical Resource
Access a broad array of clinical decision support tools

3D Bones and Organs
Manipulate 3D displays of every muscle, joint, and bone in the human body

Find and read medical journal articles

Touch Surgery
Participate in every part of a surgery in 3D (designed for medical students)

BMJ Best Practices
Access the latest evidence and expert opinion on thousands of conditions, their diagnosis, and treatment

Canopy Speak
5,000 translated phrases across 15 different languages and direct connection to live interpreters

A simulation game designed to hone diagnostic management skills

Journal Club
On-the-fly access to user-reviewed summaries of significant clinical trials

Formulary Search
Cross-match medications with local provider formularies

Disclaimer: The apps and services listed above have been mentioned in nonpartisan reviews and commentaries as exemplary, but CRICO does not specifically endorse them. Issues such as HIPAA compliance and information security must be addressed for any app that accesses or conveys patient information. All are available for both Apple and Android devices. Each offers a free option, but some apps charge for access to a higher level of service.

Of course, mixed in with the apps designed to help clinicians and patients learn and communicate, are those exploiting an unregulated marketplace. Increasingly, clinicians must contend with misinformation or dangerous advice a patient has tapped into from his or her phone. Respectfully redirecting those patients to more reliable sources (especially your own expertise) is important to sustaining a trusting relationship and avoiding the downstream consequences of misguided decisions.

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