Review of Epocrates on the iPhone

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App Store shows it has an update for me!Image by Josh Bancroft via FlickrA few weeks ago, I cataloged 22 types of medical applications we might see released for Apple’s iPhone. Number 1? A drug database. And on July 11th — along with the opening of the “App Store” on iTunes — Epocrates Rx, the free mobile drug reference, was finally released for iPhone and iPod Touch.

It’s about time. Losing this application — an encyclopedia of essential knowledge in your pocket — was the hardest part of switching from the Treo to iPhone last year. Sure, you can access drug information on the web, through UpToDate or the Epocrates website, but it’s not the same as having this database available anytime.

Epocrates Rx for the iPhone was worth waiting for. The freestanding application in Apple’s newly released App Store is polished, takes full advantage of the iPhone’s interface, and has features not found in any other version.

In the last several days, I’ve taken the application through a stress test in the office and in the hospital, and while it’s occasionally crashed and rebooted the iPhone — this is version 1.0, after all — it’s been a pleasure to use. Here are some initial observations and screenshots.

It’s quick. The interface is speedier than on the Treo. (The problem, of course, is when it crashes and you have to wait to reboot your phone.)

Appearance matters. Tap a drug name and the screen scrolls horizontally, revealing a menu listing dosing options, contraindications, reactions, and other information. Tap on “adult dosing” and the screen scrolls again. Few interfaces are this elegant and intuitive.

The pill ID is actually useful. I thought the feature allowing you to display the appearance of a medication was gimmicky, not useful. Until today, when a nurse asked me to confirm the identity the home medication of a hospitalized patient. A colleague also recently told me that she uses Epocrates "all the time" to help identify patients’ birth control pills.

To summarize: if you have an iPhone, get Epocrates. If you don’t have an iPhone — and were worried about getting one because of the lack of medical software — worry no more.

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About the Author


MD, FACP, FASN

Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.

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