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Epocrates and Skyscape: Medical Software For PDA

Today's medical professionals are deluged with information. The pace of research in medicine is creating new drugs, methodologies and processes on a daily basis. A comprehensive medical reference on a iPhone, Palm or a PocketPC comes in very handy for the modern medical professional. About half of the physicians are said to carry a handheld computer or smartphone with some medical reference software.

A medical reference on a handheld is not about loading a library full of medical books into the device. It is about organising the information in a way that is easily accessible on need basis, with limited browsing functionality provided by a PDA. There are several choices for a software which converts your PDA into a ready medical reference:

Epocrates: Epocrates boasts a user-base of more than 1.4 million medical professionals, with more than 50% of US physicians! It is almost an industry standard providing a comprehensive resource for doctors and nurses on their PDAs.

Not only does Epocrates provide medical reference, it even provides tools to compute health insurance related things like coverage, out-of-pocket copay, pre-authorization etc. Epocrates EHR (Electronic Health Record) is a web-based SaaS offering for small practice physicians.

Epocrates recently also announced an on-the-go learning system called MobileCME. This makes it easy for clinicians to stay abreast of important medical developments in their field and satisfy their continuing medical education requirements in their downtime.

Epocrates Rx Drug Reference is available as a free download. Epocrates Rx drug reference includes more than 3,300 brand and generic drugs, including dosing, interactions, adverse reactions. It also includes integrated health insurance formularies (including Medicare Part D formularies), multiCheck multiple-drug interaction checker, and medical calculators.

More complete Epocrates products are available as an yearly subscription. In addition to the features in the free version, the "Pro" edition of Epocrates Rx includes an infectious disease treatment guide, more than 400 alternative medicine monographs including interactions with drugs, Clinical tables and guidelines, and IV Compatibility Checker.

While Epocrates Rx focuses on drugs, Epocrates SxDx focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions. It contains a reference for over 1,200 diseases, conditions, and clinical topics. This reference has been derived from the "Griffith’s 5-Minute Clinical Consult". It has a symptom assessment tool which allows medical staff to search by their patient’s symptoms and findings. It also contains ICD-9-CM codes.

The goal of another product Epocrates Lab is to provide help with test preparation, interpretation, follow-up, and reimbursement. It contains selection and interpretation of hundreds of diagnostic and laboratory tests.

Epocrates Essentials provides access to all features contained in Epocrates Rx Pro, Epocrates SxDx and Epocrates Lab. In addition, it provides cross linking of above products - essentially providing a cross-referencing between drugs, diseases, and diagnostics.

Skyscape: Skyscape's roots are in various premier medical institutes and hospitals in Boston area. The first version came out on the Apple Newton! Today Skyscape boast over 400,000 healthcare professionals as its users.

Skyscape has lots of products with specific specialties. A patented technology called smARTlink links various Skyspace products on a device using fuzzy logic. Skyscape's technology provides a unique way of indexing and navigating through enormous volumes of information.

Both Epocrates and Skyscape provide various free tools for the mobile devices, including iPhones (both of these have native iPhone apps).

Other choices for mobile medical reference software include Unbound medicine, Lexi-Comp, and HandheldMed. BMJ Publishing Group, a medical publisher, publishes BMJ Clinical Evidence which summarizes the current state of knowledge about preventing and treating clinical conditions, based on a thorough appraisal of the medical literature. The editorial team uses explicit methodology for selecting and summarizing the latest research. BMJ Clinical Evidence presents the balance between proven benefits and harms of interventions using a comprehensive and question-driven approach. Recently Unbound Medicine, a provider of knowledge management solutions and mobile information resources for healthcare, announced the release of an upgraded BMJ Clinical Evidence for mobile devices. This all-new version makes the full content of the BMJ Clinical Evidence database easy to access using a personal digital assistant (PDA) from any location, including the patient’s bedside.

Currently there are almost no offerings which run on Linux based computers or PDAs. Hopefully, the vendors will soon realize the significant cost benefits of supporting Linux. However, both Epocrates and Skyscape are now available on Android based handhelds.

Above software solutions focus on medical reference programs. Other popular uses of PDAs in clinics include integration with medical billing software and medical office scheduling software.

Increasing power and storage capacity of handheld computers will continue to enhance the capabilities of the so called "peripheral brain". A sleek PDA is a welcome replacement for the bulky spiral bound notebooks. Good quality medical reference software on a mobile computer can greatly enhance productivity of a medical professional, help in reaching quicker decisions and help in reducing errors. Increased use of these tools will help improve the quality of patient care.

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