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.


Anonymous said...

I personally prefer the Skyscape App on the iPhone - not sure what you mean by 'Palm like' application. Installs, works, navigates and updates perfectly... Have a lot of choices for products as well.

Nancy McGee

Brent Thompson, PhD, RN said...

When I look at the Skyscape apps I see an interface that looks very much like their Palm applications with all the buttons at the bottom. It is OK in that I am familiar with it but it also goes against some of the Apple Interface Guidelines. These guidelines help new users figure out how to use an application by using the same navigation features. For example, in Unbound Medicine's version of the Davis Drug Guide they use breadcrumbs for navigation as you drill down.

With all software choices there is "to each his own". I also have concerns with Skyscape's lack of resident iPhone titles (most are actually just web based access subscriptions) and the fact the titles cease to work at the end of the subscription. I also found their use of abbreviations in the drug guide section menu to be confusing but other may disagree.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, Skyscape's interface 'betters' what Apple interface does. The abbreviations are something you get used to within a few uses and then you are tapping 'once' rather than having to tap 'twice' to jump to another section. Apple's interface is ok for simpler apps which do just one or two things. Frankly, I have not found anyone else really complain about this. In any event, I feel that Skyscape has done a great job (I have used their products since 1999 on the original palm pilot), so I guess I am their 'fan'. Just noticed that you are a developer as well. Planning to release any content?

BTW, I don't think you are right about the 'lack of resident iPhone titles'. They are very much downloaded and work without any web access (except when you need to download or update or when you are accessing medalerts)


Brent Thompson, PhD, RN said...

Interface issues are often a matter of taste. Even though I am a long term user of Skyscape products I did not find the interface for iPhone to be as intuitive as other iPhone apps I've used.

The question of what app reside on the iPhone is not clearly stated on their website. You have to select Platforms tab on the Skyscape product page and see if they list the app size for the Apple iPhone version. Many that I looked at did not list a size so these are most likely web-based.

I have released a couple of utilities and more are on the way. You can get a look at them at http://handheldcare.com

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