New products: Best software of 2008

A review of the best software products for desktops, laptops, and palmtops/PDAs/iPhones.

Things are good and always getting better, and 2008 was no exception. This year introduced new medical applications for Apple's iPhone and other handhelds.

100s of medical books at your disposal

Many of my treasured pediatric textbooks are gathering dust, now that I can read pediatric texts and journals online. However, everyone's reading habits may soon changed because of Amazon's reinvention of the textbook: the Kindle electronic book reader. Using a display technology called electronic paper, the Kindle can display books and magazines with a sharpness and clarity that makes you think you're looking at a printed page. Unlike textbooks that can be viewed on a personal digital assistant (PDA), the Kindle's 6-inch black-and-white screen is large and readable. Buttons let you not only turn pages, but place bookmarks and make notes. For those of us with presbyopia, the Kindle can resize text to your liking.

To date, no medical journals are currently available. However, useful pediatric references are available in abundance. They include "Current Pediatric Diagnosis and Treatment," "Current Essentials in Pediatrics," "Current Procedures in Pediatrics," "Pediatric Critical Care: The Essentials," and "Neonatology: Management, Procedures, On-Call Problems, Diseases, and Drugs," just to name a few. Also the "Harriet Lane Handbook" and the "Hospital for Sick Children Handbook of Pediatrics" should be available soon.

The Kindle is quite affordable at $360 (including shipping), and textbooks are reasonably priced as well. This may be the way we read medical literature in the future-when we are away from our computer screens.

iPhone medical applications

I recently acquired an iPhone 3G and have been amazed by it. It's fun to use, and the touch-based operating system makes it easy to retrieve e-mail or access Web sites via a local wireless connection or AT&T's speedy 3G cellular network. I appreciate the ability to install medical podcasts and videocasts on the device-it helps me keep current with the latest medical information when I'm at the gym or have a spare moment between patients.

With the introduction of the application store on iTunes, physicians can access a rapidly growing collection of intriguing medical "apps," many of which are free. In addition, several medical calculators are available and worth installing. Try "PubSearch," which lets users search the PubMed National Library of Medicine database: searches are quick, and abstracts are displayed in a clear readable format. "ABC" assists in the interpretation of arterial blood gasses. Lastly "EpocratesRx" is a drug database utility from Epocrates, which specializes in drug databases.

Physicians considering the iPhone will be pleased to learn that the Skyscape and Unbound Medicine Web sites have many PDA favorites, including "The Harriet Lane Handbook," "The Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases," and "The 5-minute Pediatric Consult."

Skyscape Inc. also provides a free desktop version of the references with a PDA or iPhone edition. They are one click away when you are using your EHR, and I find them an expeditious alternative to Web-based medical references.

iPhone has some exclusive medical apps as well. Radiologists can transmit x-rays and MRIs to show to patients or colleagues, and Netter Anatomy flash cards are available for viewing on the device as well. Unbound Medicine offers a subscription called "Pediatric Central," which gives users access to the Red Book, five-minute clinical consults, and an excellent drug database for $160 yearly.

Great desktop apps-revisited

New versions of some trusted Web-based apps have become available this year, and I'd like to make you aware of the improvements.