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Developing MD Consult Mobile

Getting a Library of Medical Content Into Users’ Pockets

Mike Takats, Elsevier | Nov 01, 2009

MD Consult is the flagship online reference service from Elsevier’s Health Sciences division. Originally a joint venture between W.B. Saunders, Mosby and Lippincott, MD Consult brings reference books, journal articles, Clinics, drug monographs and patient handouts together into one convenient online service — delivering trusted medical information to help physicians make better treatment decisions and improve patient care. This fall we’re extending the service and launching MD Consult Mobile.

According to a 2009 report by Manhattan Research, nearly two out of three physicians are now using smartphones. Doctors have long required portable information that they could reach at any time or any place. In the past, physicians carried dog-eared copies of trusted handbooks in their coat pockets; with MD Consult Mobile, the same act of reaching into the pocket will give a doctor access to a myriad of medical content across the full spectrum of specialties. Online quick reference resources often deliver partial solutions in particular specialties relevant to specific groups, but MDC Mobile with its extensive collection of reference content is uniquely able to support the needs of all specialists.

Starting this month, in October 2009, physicians can use the iPhone, BlackBerry, Treo and other smartphones to reach MD Consult in a new interface optimized for a small screen.

MD Consult Mobile users can:

  • Browse directly to content via Quick Reference links that cover a growing list of medical topics with preorganized resources;
  • Search books, Clinics, journals, PubMed and practice guidelines;
  • View fulltext chapters and journal articles plus images of all searchable content; and
  • Email content links, to themselves for later review or to colleagues.

All for one or one for all?

The first decision in the development of MD Consult Mobile involved some debate. Should we develop an iPhone “app” that is sold in the iTunes store and installed on iPhones, or should we create something that works on all devices? We decided on the latter for two reasons. First, in the US, the iPhone has taken a strong lead in physician smartphone use, but because MD Consult has a large non-US subscriber base, we wanted to make sure we had a solution from which the broadest set of users could get value.

Second, because the knowledge base within MD Consult is so extensive, we decided to initially release a “mobile Web” version of the service. This provides healthcare workers with the real value of MD Consult: the ability to access a wealth of medical content.

Everyone acquainted with MD Consult will recognize its authoritative sources such as Cecil Medicine, Braunwald’s Heart Disease, Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, The Harriet Lane Handbook, Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2010, the Clinics of North America, leading clinical journals, practice guidelines from professional medical societies and many more. To access the content, a subscriber simply has to open a phone’s Internet browser and type in

Answering the users’ call

As with all MD Consult initiatives, MD Consult Mobile was developed in consultation with potential users and after extensive usability testing. “A key goal of our design has been to support a range of smartphone devices so that most members of an organization offering MD Consult can have mobile access,” commented Jack Bellis, a usability expert at Elsevier. MD Consult Mobile extends the reach and value of MD Consult, enabling additional users to connect in diverse ways as needs require, and increasing the usability and adaptability of this essential service.

What’s next

In a space as dynamic as mobile phones, one can never call a version “final,” so our first MD Consult Mobile release is considered to be beta. The competition and innovation in the smartphone devices themselves make this a rapidly evolving landscape. The popularity of smartphones and mobile access to clinical information are expected to continue to grow with our users, so we’re already thinking about how to make the mobile version of MD Consult more efficient and useful. Additional personalization for an individual or for a particular specialty on which a user wants to focus is something the development team is paying a lot of attention to now.

Starting this month, physicians can use smartphones to reach MD Consult in a new interface optimized for a small screen.

Next year, we plan to launch an iPhone app that allows users to save some information offline and eliminates the need for a connection to access the most commonly used information sources. This application will follow the successful lead of the Netter anatomy and Procedures Consult iPhone apps already available to customers.