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Cardiac ultrasound teaching brought to the iPhone – Echocardiography Atlas medical app gets reviewed

7/12/2010 by Amit Patel, MD, iMedicalApps

Cardiac ultrasound represents an often-called-upon imaging modality for diagnosis and surveillance in a wide range of both inpatients and outpatients, including those with myocardial infarctions, congestive heart failure symptoms, cardiomyopathies, congenital valvular abnormalities, suspected endocarditis, and so many more symptom presentations and illnesses.

Not only should cardiologists be facile with the interpretation of echocardiograms, but many physicians and physicians-in-training can benefit from a familiarity with formal as well as beside ultrasound imaging of the heart.

Here we review the Echocardiography Atlas App, edited by a Harvard Medical School professor and designed by Modality.

Edited by Dr. Scott Solomon, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Noninvasive Cardiac Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Echo Atlas App is designed in conjunction with Modality.

Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Durham, NC, Modality prides itself as a “premier developer of interactive learning, assessment, training and reference apps.” Since the App Store launched in July 2008, Modality has released more than 140 apps for iPhone®, iPod touch® and iPad™ in partnership with Elsevier, CSI, McGraw-Hill Professional, Pearson, The Princeton Review, Thieme Publishers, John Wiley & Sons, and Wolters Kluwer, among others. In our opinion, Modality has a solid and substantial history of producing well-built educational apps, especially those for health care education.

As for the app itself, the Echo Atlas is organized into twelve chapters of normal and abnormal echocardiograms, as shown on the app’s home screen:

The app encompasses 250 annotated images and 189 videos, all organized into these 12 chapters shown above. Clicking on a chapter, such as “Aortic Valve Disease,” brings up the chapter’s associated images and videos:

The video buttons depict which images have associated videos with the particular finding and ultrasound view. Moreover, chapters are also searchable for specific terms.

Alternatively, the “All Figures” function from the home screen brings up the entirety of the Echo Atlas’s collection, sorted by chapter but with the ability to quickly search for a desired image or video:

Regardless of how a topic and view is selected, the app features an annotated image with or without a video, and several sentences highlighting the topic as well as pointing out a couple key elements to observe on the image and video.

The images are generally well-annotated with labels, and have the option to toggle the labels on or off.

The associated looping videos can be paused and navigated frame-by-frame, and users can also zoom and pan within the videos.

A nice touch here is the synchronization of the video with the rhythm strip near the lower-left corner, allowing users to see where in systole or diastole the frames are. Noticeably lacking, however, are annotations within the video frames.

Another impressive element of the Echo Atlas app lies in its inclusion of continuous-wave spectral Doppler, a useful facet of cardiac echosonography.

Yet another useful function of the app is the ability to bookmark certain topics for quick retrieval. Here, we have selected the Tetralogy of Fallot topic for bookmarking by clicking the ribbon at the center of the bottom of the screen.

Bookmarking a topic allows for quickly looking at it through the Bookmarks button on the app’s home screen.

Finally, the Normal Values Tables button from the home screen allows for the quick look-up of echosonography-relevant reference ranges and other values in easily navigable table formats.

Summary:

In summary, the Echo Atlas App, edited by a well-respected physician and designed by a health education app maker, represents a powerful and convenient way to learn about cardiac ultrasonography. Also of note, all images and videos are stored locally, which makes initially downloading/installing the app somewhat time-consuming, but facilitates faster loading of content and renders 3G/WiFi connection unnecessary to actually use the Echo Atlas App.

Pricing:

The Echocardiography Atlas App is currently available at a promotional price of $19.99 (regular price is $29.99).

Likes:

  • Reasonably priced for the learning it offers
  • With 250 annotated images and 189 videos embedded into 12 chapters, encompasses an impressive range of cardiac pathology
  • Ability to pause, zoom, and pan videos
  • Content is locally stored- 3G/WiFi connection unnecessary, makes loading faster

Dislikes/Future Updates I’d Love to See:

  • Is not optimized for the iPad! This app, especially by it’s graphical nature, would look great on the iPad. Although it will work on the iPad, since it’s not optimized for it, the pictures look grainy and the app cannot be fully utilized as on the iPhone.
  • Videos are not annotated with labels like the images (granted, it would be a LOT of work to annotate each frame of every video)
  • Initial downloading + installation time (took me almost 30 minutes)

The Bottom Line:

The Echo Atlas app is a graphic and compelling tool to help master cardiac ultrasonography—a must-have for cardiologists-in-training, recommended for internists-in-training, and suggested for medical students who want to impress on cardiology and medicine rotations.