Have you ever had a customer ask you to put two medications behind your back, mix them up, pick one, and then give it to them? Then you are not the pharmacist who wrote into notalwaysright.com about a strange patient interaction.
Customer: “I’m not sure which one to get.”
Pharmacist: *pointing to the orange box* “Well, this one treats symptoms of a minor cold, like stuffy nose and chest congestion, and this one—” *pointing to the blue box* “—is a sleep aid.”
Customer: “Which one should I get?”
Me: “Do you have a cold or do you need help falling asleep?”
Customer: “I don’t know. Can you put them behind your back and mix them up, then I’ll just pick a hand and go with it.”
Me: “It might just be better to choose the one that fits your symptoms.”
Customer: *pushing the boxes at me* “No, this will be fine. Just mix them up behind your back, and I’ll pick one.”
Me: “Um, okay.” *dutifully puts the boxes behind my back and switches hands*
(The customer picks the hand that was holding the sleep aid.)
Customer: “Great! This is perfect. THANKS!”
Me: “You’re welcome?”
It’s probably good that this isn’t the default way to recommend a medication. But it’s sure easy! For more challenging drug questions, it’s great to have a wealth of information on your phone. These five pharmacy apps will help make your life simpler, no behind-the-back mix ups required.
Current Version: 4 out of 5 stars (18 Ratings)
All Versions: 3 out of 5 stars (47422 Ratings)
Last update: Sep 30, 2016
4.3 out of five stars (23,463 Ratings)
Last update: October 18, 2016
Also runs on BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile.
Epocrates is on nearly all of the “must-have pharmacy apps” lists. Pharmacy Times Associate Editor Laura Enderle calls Epocrates “The gold standard for mobile drug references.”
It does a lot, even at the free level, from prescription drug and safety information to running potential drug interactions to checking health insurance formularies for medication coverage. You can enter a drug’s color, shape, and imprint and the app will tell you what the drug is and gives you the drug’s complete profile. It’s also got some great calculators, including one for BMI.
Android Play store reviewer Erica Lynn has been using Epocrates since nursing school mostly for the drug information. “However, now that I am in my Family Nurse Practitioner program I am finding and utilizing all the in-app features,” Lynn wrote. “I am even going to pay for the full version starting next semester because I can’t imagine how much more help this app will be in my studies and career. Highly, highly, highly recommended this app to anyone in the health field.”
There are two paid upgrades: Essentials: $159.99, and Epocrates Plus: $174.99.
One Android Play store reviewer complained about the support, but it wasn’t clear whether he was a paying customer. Support for free apps tends to be poor. Several people complained about the fact that they couldn’t turn off push notifications. Doesn’t work offline.
2. Monthly Prescribing Reference
Current Version: 4 out of 5 stars (45 Ratings)
All Versions: 3 out of 5 stars ( Ratings)
Last update: Jul 22, 2015
4.3 out of five stars (790 Ratings)
Last update: May 6, 2016
Like Epocrates, Monthly Prescribing Reference (MPR) offers monographs for more than 4,000 prescription and OTC drugs. But unlike Epocrates, there’s no paid version. It’s all free.
Search by brand, generic name, disease, pharmacological class, or manufacturer. Its claim-to-fame is that its information is edited by pharmacists. If there’s something you look up often, you can bookmark it in the app for easy access.
The app pushes up-to-date drug news, safety alerts, and recall information. MPR also provides more than 120 clinical tools, including 30 medical calculators.
While Pharmacist.com described MPR’s prescription and OTC drug monographs as “up-to-date” and “concise,” the reviewers don’t all agree. One Apple Store reviewer called some of the scales and reference material “way out of date.” Another said the drug reference needs an update. According to multiple reviewers, the developers removed the drug interaction checker. Doesn’t run on BlackBerry, Palm, or Windows Mobile.
All Versions: 3.5 out of 5 stars (2684 Ratings)
Last update: Oct 19, 2016
4.2 out of five stars (1679 Ratings)
Last update: October 19, 2016
Also runs on BlackBerry and Palm.
According to the company, Lexicomp offers “the most trusted and comprehensive mobile drug and clinical information for pharmacists, physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals.”
Again, this is another drug-information app, providing users with monographs, dosing information, advice on administration, an interactions checker, and warnings about adverse effects and contraindications.
In addition, Lexicomp claims that its “multiple indexes” make searching faster. What this means in practice is just a better user interface.
For example, if you want the monograph of a drug, instead of navigating to the monographs part of the app and then searching the drug’s name, you can just search the drug’s name and the drug’s monograph will appear along with pediatric drug information and every other result from every part of the app. Search within a page is a very handy feature.
Once you’re in the monograph, you can collapse it to just the subheadings (Brand Names, Pharmacologic Category, Dosing, so on and so forth) to limit your scrolling.
Lexicomp is not cheap, starting at $175 and going up to $798. But members of the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) may be entitled to a discount, so if you’re a member, check before you buy. If you’re not a Lexicomp subscriber, sign up on the website and then download the app for your 30-day free trial.
4. Micromedex Drug Information
Current Version: 2 out of 5 stars (28 Ratings)
All Versions: 1.5 out of 5 stars (420 Ratings)
Last update: Oct 22, 2015
3.9 out of five stars (180 Ratings)
Last update: September 16, 2015
Finally! A low-cost drug information app! $2.99 per year is a much more reasonable investment than $175 or $159.99 when you’re considering trying this kind of app. The only free drug information app on this list doesn’t offer interactions. It’s got tons of information and is comparable in functionality to the other apps on the list. In addition, unlike most apps on this list it works offline.
You usually get what you pay for in this life. This was an outstanding app in 2011 when it made Pharmacy Times’ best apps for pharmacists list. It got rave reviews for its user interface in Wired magazine’s first-ever App Guide. However, it doesn’t seem like the developers have taken the time to ensure this app stays up-and-running. The last update was last year, and the customers reviews are pretty poor. Complaints about bugs and glitches abound, with many saying the app won’t work at all. $2.99 may not be much, but it’s too much to pay for an app that won’t open.
5. Google Translate
Current Version: 4 out of 5 stars (33 Ratings)
All Versions: 3.5 out of 5 stars (26033 Ratings)
Last update: Oct 14, 2016
4.4 out of five stars (4,470,284 Ratings)
Last update: September 26, 2016
If you work with non-English speaking patients, Google Translate can be a great asset. It translates words and phrases in more than 60 languages. It’ll translate 52 languages even when you are offline. It offers instant two-way speech translation in 32 languages.
And, it’s free!
These are all great apps, with different strengths and weaknesses. Epocrates is going to be the best for most people. It’s especially handy for pharmacists who often have to identify drugs based on the pill alone and don’t mind push notifications. Monthly Prescribing Reference is great if your budget is zero. But you’ll still likely need another app for looking up drug interactions.
Lexicomp appears to be the Cadillac of pharmacy apps, with a Cadillac price. However, if you find it easier to use than other options, the shorter learning curve and saved time may make the price worth it to you. If you want to check out this category of apps, need an interaction checker, and don’t want to risk not cancelling your free trial, Micromedex Drug Information may be a good way to test the water. But be aware that long-term, it’s not likely to get better if the developers aren’t investing in it anymore.
Any great apps I missed? Let me know in the comments!