Apple’s Medical Apps Section #Fail?

According to iMedicalApps, “Apple tries to help doctors categorize medical apps, but falls short.”  I mentioned last month that Apple created a medical/health section to help healthcare professionals get to good apps and not have to sift through the junk in the general health and medical section in iTunes. 

At that time I was concerned about who would be adding and vetting the apps.  It seems this concern was justified.  Although it appears the section isn’t just an open free for all for any app developer, there is some frustration with what is and isn’t listed in the categories.   

In his post, Iltifat Husain, expresses his concerns not only about the type of apps in the new section but the type sub-categories as well.  “The imedicalapps team was expecting apps to be separated by specialities — or at least by broad medical professionals, such as “nursing”, “EMS”, and “physician centered” — but this was not the case.  Apart from the issue with sub-categories, Apple missed the mark with not only the apps that were included, but also the extremely useful apps they excluded.”

Iltifat does a really great job evaluating the new medical apps section and he goes into a lot of depth regarding the sub-categories in the section and what apps are listed there and what are not. 

I only disagree slightly with his complaints, specifically about sub-categories.  Iltifat would rather see apps in organized into profession sub-categories rather than function sub-categories.  Apple chose to have 6 sub-categories; Reference, Education, EMR & Patient Monitoring, Imaging, Point of Care and Personal Care.  I understand Iltifat’s argument that nurses would rather just go to the nursing sub-category to download all of their needed apps rather than bounce around to different categories to download apps here and there.  However, given that an app on EMR and Patient Monitoring could be in multiple profession categories (doctor, nurse, etc.) I can see why the creators chose to go with function of the app as a category rather than who it is directed towards.  Tomato…tomahto.  Welcome to the world of librarians where we try to categorize everything to make it easy for everybody to find.  As hard as we work at, and as much as we think we did a good job of categorizing, somebody doesn’t think that method of organizing makes sense.

Apple’s method of organziation makes even more sense to me as I read Iltifat’s very good argument that many of the apps listed in the categories are either not really professional apps (WebMD in Reference), are too old to be listed as a good app (USMLERx Step 1 in Education), or missing crucial apps (Osirix and ResolutionMD in Imaging).  The people who organized these apps were not medical professionals and weren’t medical librarians familiar with the medical app world.  The fact that they made several errors not only in the inclusion and exclusion of apps but also what is considered professional and consumer tells me that they wouldn’t know what apps would be appropriate for nurses, doctors, EMS, etc.  Basically they did the best they could. 

There are pros and cons to having the apps organzied by either profession or function sub-categories.  As a result the medical librarian in me would say have both sub-categories with the apps listed in multiple places.  However, that would require them to have a professional (dare I say it?) indexing the apps, placing them in the correct categories and also selecting (and deselecting) appropriate apps as they are developed.  The Apps for Healthcare Professionals section needs a medical librarian, but clearly they don’t have one.

It would seem that the Apps for Healthcare Professionals is a basic place to start if you are medical professional  and you have time to sift through the general medical/health category to find those quality apps that for some reason didn’t get into the professional apps section.  Medical professionals are probably still best served by either looking at what their library suggests/offers or using the web to find suggestions from other medical libraries or sites like iMedicalApps.   

There are many medical librarians out there already selecting apps for that would be of interest to their users or are available through institutional subscriptions.  An added bonus is that many of the medical libraries list more than just iPhone apps (which iTunes of course does not) so it is a one stop shop for many professionals with different devices. 

Some of the libraries that already have lists are:
(Please note if app requires institutional subscription)

So if you are like Iltifat and frustrated Apple’s attempt at organizing medical apps, a medical librarian looking for a good list of apps to start your own list, or somebody that doesn’t have the almighty iPhone, you might want to look at a medical library.

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