January 26, 2009

Nursing Central from Unbound Medicine

Unbound Medicine has released Nursing Central for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It offers the Davis Drug Guide, Lab and Diagnostic Tests, Diseases and Disorders reference, and Taber's Medical Dictionary. There is also a Medline Journal citation and abstract explorer. The Nursing Central app is offered free on iTunes but unlike Skyscape it has no free references for download. However, unlike Skyscape the references will reside on the iPhone or iPod Touch and continue to work after the subscription period of one year. During that year you have unlimited free updates.

The Nursing Central titles stick much closer to Apple Guidelines for the user interface. The Skyscape titles look more like Palm apps. Performance is good and I had no crashes. The user interface is pretty intuitive as the icons are clear about their purpose. Even the front page icons for each title are beautifully rendered. One shortcoming is that some titles in appendices get truncated due the use of large font sizes. I hope that is corrected in an update.

One issue for faculty is the cost. The only package offered is a $159 subscription. I look at this as $40 for each of the reference titles plus the Medline search tool for free. That is a reasonable price per title when compared to the print editions. The biggest benefit is that the reference titles continue work after the subscription. As of today Unbound Medicine is the only company offering this. Skyscape, Epocrates, Lexi-Comp and Pepid all shut down at the end.

Installation is easy but requires installing the app on the Apple device and then paying for the subscription online. Once the username and password are entered the titles begin to download. Be sure you are in a WiFi area when loading.

Overall, Nursing Central brings nursing educators to a point where we no longer need to recommend the use of a Palm or Windows Mobile device for clinical references. With the addition of some of the free and inexpensive medical formula tools, assessment guides, and learning aids available in the Apple App Store we now have a powerful handheld computer for clinical use.