Medscape app delivers up-to-date drug information for professionals and patients

Jul 30, 2016

Do you ever end up with a handful of pills and wonder what they are?  Medscape from WebMD, one of the most popular medical iPhone apps, is so simple and quick that it will identify each pill before it clears your esophagus. But it is unclear if the information it provides is accurate. 

As with any medical service, you start by filling out a form (unless you are already a member of Medscape).  Its query about occupation is mostly limited to health professionals, with no option for the hypochondriacs who are most likely to love the Medscape app. Worrywarts can still go along for the ride.

The drug encyclopedia is extensive and seems authoritative, but it is in such correct medical language it might be hard to swallow.  If you don’t know medical jargon, you may get lost and wind up uttering some non-Hippocratic oaths. To its credit, it allows you to easily connect specific drugs to dosage levels, pregnancy implications and even brands and cost.

You can enter different medications and the app will give you likely interactions, putting them in categories like “critical” and “serious.” The warnings extend to herbs and ointments. For example, you can learn that if you combine cinnamon with a handful of random drugs you will regret it.

The medical news section seems comprehensive, but you have to be an expert to fathom the meaning of the headlines.  You will still need your local paper if you are a layman.

For doctors or self-diagnosers detailed description of diseases and conditions contains a lot of vital information. The latest addition is a pill identifier, so you can visually identify drugs that are not stored appropriately. Of course it will not tell you the expiration date but you will have a better idea whether you can use that medicine or not. For professionals, Medscape Consult was launched to share ideas and discuss clinical questions.

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Medscape designers say health professionals can use this app to advance for continuing medical education. On the other hand, it is not clear how such education is tested and confirmed.

You can search for physicians, hospitals and pharmacies. But we found no explanation of how honest a broker of information it is. Is it inclined to favor certain vendors over others?  We just don’t know.  Medscape has a good reputation among doctors, but caveat emptor is still a good prescription.

The main drawback of the app is that the stability of the software is much worse than the quality of the content. There are many possible issues, including freezing, crashing, installation and update problems. Since the app is constantly updated, hopefully these issues will be fixed soon.

Regardless, this store of knowledge yields the new maxim: “an app a day keeps the doctor away.

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