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Anatomy Apps: Similar User Interface, but Different Images, Could be Used for Patient Education on the iPad

1/28/2010 by Alex Drossos, iMedicalApps

The iPad has created a great deal of buzz in the tech community. The medical and healthcare community at large are set to benefit from some of its key features, mentioned in our prior posting. One of these key features, the beautiful 1024 by 768 pixel, 9.7 inch screen, is set to change the overall user experience for medical apps that have a focus on imaging, such as anatomy applications. Although this medical app review was done using an iPod Touch, we can only imagine how much more aesthetically pleasing the iPad’s experience will be. As will be discussed later in the post, these applications are a perfect example of how the upcoming iPad could be used in the clinic setting to improve patient education.

A key thing to remember is your iPhone medical apps will run just fine on the iPad. This post will review a trio of Modality’s latest anatomy flash card apps and provide extensive pictures of the following: Clemente’s Anatomy, Rohen’s Photographic Anatomy, and Moore’s Clinical Anatomy.

Modality now has a variety of Anatomy Flashcard apps to choose from, depending on your preference. In addition to Netter’s Anatomy, an app we reviewed awhile back, Modality’s newest editions are Clemente’s, Moore’s and Rohen’s anatomy. They are all priced at $24.99 (except for Netter’s, which is still $39.99).

Due to the similarities of these applications they will be reviewed in one post. I’ve been using Modality’s Netter’s Anatomy Flashcards app for almost a year now and have a good reference to compare these new apps to.

Ultimately, your choice of anatomy app will come down to the anatomy book you like or the anatomy book your school uses. I originally chose the Netter’s app for this reason. These apps have generally the same user interface, and mainly differ on the type of anatomy images they provide. However, individually, they each have some strengths and weaknesses.

Clemente’s

  • Strengths: Great for the lymphatic system and also for schematics to simplify diagrams (e.g. brachial plexus, spinal nerve roots, dermatomes, etc.); Some X-ray images included; Excellent for bones and muscles.
  • Weaknesses: Lacks “back of card” information that explains the anatomy in the illustration.

Moore’s

  • Strengths: Excellent Cranial Nerves section and Head/Neck detail; great “back of card” information including effect of lesions to the area; Great illustrations for viscera and organs.
  • Weaknesses: No X-ray images; Generally uses more ‘dull’ or pastel colors, consequently less aesthetically pleasing.

Rohen’s

  • Strengths: Fantastic color photos right from cadavers; Great brain/cranium/face specimens; Includes X-ray, Angiogram, CT and MRI images; Zooming in provides amazing level of detail; Would be very helpful for Anatomy Lab Practical.
  • Weaknesses: Sometimes with real cadaver photographs it’s difficult to find what you’re looking for since everything is pretty much “flesh colored”; lacks “back of card” information.

What I liked about these applications:

It’s nice Modality offers you four different choices of anatomy apps for the iPhone that use the same user interface. This makes switching between apps easy and it allows users to pick what works best for them. Here’s a quick list of the features that go beyond what you’d expect from the typical navigation in each individual “card”:

  • The best feature is the ability to “Add Structure” to a card. That means you can include a new custom pin to label anatomy your own way, or you could use this pin to include a short mnemonic to help with memorization.
  • For each structure there are links to Google and Wikipedia, allowing a quick way to search more info
  • When using the zoom feature, image quality remains the same, and screen resolution is preserved. Again, this feature should work fantastically on the iPad.
  • Simple yet effective quiz mode on each card that asks you to find the structure in question.
  • There is a decent search function on the main screen of the apps allowing you to directly find anatomic structures of the body.

What I didn’t like about these applications:

  • You are not given the ability to add your own extensive notes to a whole card, or even to a given structure.
  • Once you’re viewing a particular card/image you can no longer see the title of the card. If you’ve forgotten what you’re looking at, you can’t easily check it again. Instead, you have to click back to the menu to see the title and then click back into the card again.

What I would like to see in future updates:

  • Ability to add custom notes on each separate card
  • Ability to view the card title from within the card
  • Landscape mode
  • More advanced quiz features (overall quiz for all cards, random selection, % correct)

These anatomy apps would be good for the following:

Students will benefit the most from these Anatomy Flashcard apps. This includes medical students, but really all health professionals who need to learn anatomy (physician assistants, nurse practitioners, etc). The apps are also useful health care providers in general who need a quick anatomy refresher every once in a while or a good anatomy reference in your pocket.

Patient education, especially on the iPad

Another key function of these app would be for patient education. Orthopedic surgeons or even family medicine doctors could show their patients the exactly anatomy of their pathologies. These anatomy applications will also work on the soon to be released iPad, and showing patients these images on a beautiful display could improve their understand and also make their office visit more exciting. These types of interaction could improve the overall patient physician relationship.

Conclusion:

The Modality Anatomy Flashcard apps are well designed and work well too. They are a good replacement for paper-based flashcards by the respective authors. The plus is that they are more mobile than paper-based cards; the minus is that you can’t share them with others easily (or sell them used when you’re done!).

Ultimately you really just need to pick the one app you like most and stick with it – use the brief descriptions at the beginning of this review to help you out, or take a look at the hard cover books/flashcard equivalents online or in a bookstore before you make the plunge and purchase one of the apps on iTunes. I personally might just hold on to two of them: Netter’s because I’m partial to his illustrations, and Rohen’s because I like the cadaver images used. But really I probably like these two most because they are the ones we used at my school.