Ever wondered what that Omega 3 medicine you’re taking contains, whether your Aspirin is causing you nausea, how your colleague’s arrhythmia will affect his life and productivity, or what exactly your doctor wants to do when he suggests an electrocardiogram? Sure, you could always search the internet for answers to these questions, but you will always wonder about the reliability of the information you find.
As a practicing pharmacist, owning and managing my own drug store, I know how important it is to have a great resource in the palm of my hand, and this is why I turn to Medscape, a medical reference for Android, provided by a reliable source: WebMD.
What Is Medscape?
Medscape.com, at its origins, is a free medical online reference and news portal, targeting the professional but also foraying itself as an easy and reliable source of information for the general public. The Medscape application for Android builds on those same principles: it’s completely free, it’s extensive, it’s professional and yet it’s available and accessible to everyone.
The first time you launch the application, you are asked to sign in with your own Medscape credentials, and then you’re given the chance to download the bulk of the reference for offline use. If you plan on consulting Medscape quite often, I’d suggest you go ahead. It’s a 150MB download, roughly, but it’s worth the initial wait and trouble, as you will be able to access information quickly and offline or in hospital wards for example.
The application centers around a landing screen that allows you to manually browse the content, and a search screen that lets you easily get to the information you’re seeking. There’s also a Help section with a useful list of all the abbreviations used in the application.
Medscape's main application view and Search screen
The Reference Aspect
Medscape’s Reference covers drugs (including herbals and OTCs), diseases, and conditions, as well as procedures and protocols.
Medscape currently comprises over 7000 drugs that are organized by class and normally offer the following information:
Active ingredient and brand names
Adult and pediatric dosing and uses, including special cases such as renal impairment
Adverse effects, contraindications and warnings
Pregnancy and lactation categories
Pharmacology, including mechanism of action, absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.
A convenient interaction checker that lets you add several drugs and look for interactions that would keep you from using them together
As for Diseases and Conditions, over 4000 topics are divided by specialty, and usually present with this information, all of which is nicely referenced with medical articles and publications:
Authors and editors for the content
Complete overview including the background, anatomy, pathophysiology, etiology, epidemiology, prognosis and patient education
Clinical presentation encompassing the history, physical examination, manifestations and symptoms
Differential diagnosis simply linking the other diseases that could have a similar presentation as the one selected
Workup, including the different procedures and tests to be performed, their usefulness, validity, and expected results
Treatment and Medication citing the various drugs, surgeries, environmental changes or other methods to cure the disease, and the validated guidelines between all of them.
Medscape also contains hundreds of procedures with links to videos, tables for protocols such as vaccinations, guidelines for CPR, and a lot more.
The Other Aspects
Medscape offers an up-to-date news and alerts section, browsed by specialty, with news fetched from Medscape, Reuters, and a few other sources. There’s an Education category that allows professionals to keep up with their CME credits as well as a Directory for physicians, pharmacies and hospitals in the United States. And finally, you can bookmark your favorite topics and news to access them all in a convenient “Saved” section without having to browse for them again.
Medscape vs Epocrates
Epocrates has long been everyone’s go-to reference for medical information, and it is quite similar to Medscape in its drug details, interaction checker and offline use, also adding a Pill Identifier that lets you enter a pill’s shape, colors and details to identify it for you.
However, Epocrates’ free offering is limited to drug monographs. Medscape, as demonstrated above, also covers diseases, conditions, protocols and procedures, all of which are areas you should pay for an Epocrates Premium annual account to access.
Whether you browse medical information occasionally or whether you work in the medical field, Medscape remains an unbeatable offering on Android. The application is well done, with clear sections, an extensive search function, offline support, and quite a comprehensive database of information that is frequently updated. The fact that the whole reference is free and the addition of specialty news give it that little plus that differentiate it from its main competitor, Epocrates.
On a personal note, Medscape is one of the major reasons I decided to buy an Android smartphone, after three very loyal years as an invested Symbian user. I needed a great resource to be with me at all times, and Medscape seemed to fit the bill in every aspect. After eight months of use, I can only pat myself on the back for making this decision.