App Review: Meducation

July 27, 2017
Saroj Misra, DO

Despite minor user interface issues, Meducation provides a free method for physicians to continually update their clinical knowledge.

Each month, physician reviewers will evaluate a particular app or category of apps that provide some functionality for medical practices and/or patients.

Editor's note: Portions of this article were reviewed by Victor Abuel, MD.

Any practicing physician will tell you that one of the hardest things to do is maintain current knowledge in areas of

Rating

Pros: Free; custom content; simple and easy to use; 120,000 resources; good design

Cons: Some content requires paid subscription; minor user interface issues; missing topics

practice specialty. Between seeing patients, managing administrative duties, becoming savvy and competent with EHR systems, and trying to find the mythical 'work-life balance' ratio, updating our medical knowledge base sometimes gets shoved to the side.

There are numerous options to help us continually update our knowledge, but most require spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and finding the time to read extensive articles to find critical information that is needed for the everyday practice. Meducation is an app for both iOS and Android platforms that aims to help reduce the time it takes to gain new knowledge while keeping costs to a minimum. Does it succeed in this lofty goal? Sort of.

Meducation was founded in 2008 by two medical students, Alistair Buck and Jeremy Walker, with a goal 'to bring medical professionals and their knowledge together into one digital space to improve the quality of medical education for everyone.' Over the last nine years, the site has managed to have over 160,000 subscribers utilizing and crowd sourcing over 120,000 medical resources in various medical categories. It should be noted that only a fraction of the resources are native to Meducation, with the large majority of them being housed on other sites around the web with Meducation providing a link. The website was redesigned in 2015, coinciding with the release of their app which functions as a portal to the website.

You might ask, why use this app when there are other resources that are more comprehensive? The simple answer is that this app (unlike others) is free and user-curated. What this means is that the content is controlled by users. Anyone with an account can upload a topic, article, or document and the community can up-vote or comment on the items users provide. The more up-votes, the higher in that list the item goes (making it easier to find by others).

In theory, this process should create high-yield content and prioritize it in searches. The user can also create personalized, custom ‘boards’ where they store content they find from others, allowing a degree of flexibility to further personalize what they look at and keep.

The app's interface is simple and easy to use – each tab is self-explanatory. Here and there, some minor user interface issues do crop up (it took me a while to realize I had to refresh by swiping down on my custom boards to see what I had added to them), but the overall interface design works.

A more significant issue is that non-hosted content is more difficult to access. Found a BMJ article for folic acid guidelines? Great, but when you click on it, you only get the abstract and the rest requires a BMJ subscription. Basically, if the content isn't free on the web, it won't be free on Meducation. With this in mind, it's better to think of this design as one that helps you to find specific answers, rather than acting as a compendium.

Another thing to recognize is that the site is heavily trafficked by students. This means many items listed may pertain more to trainees than to a practicing physician. Comments from other users  aren't always helpful and some are clearly just advertising spammers, indicating a little bit better curation of the messages needs to occur (the Meducation website lists an extensive number of section moderators; many are students or residents who may not have time to actively curate these sections regularly).

Some topics aren't represented at all; despite this, I was pleasantly surprised at what I could find with a little searching through the app. It should be noted that the app is simply a portal – everything the app can do can be done via a remote and the website.

I am always looking for ways to read in a 'quick hit' style to ensure that I am always updating my knowledge. While Meducation isn't perfect (not enough content and some user interface issues), it has a visual and aesthetic sensibility that I appreciate. I think if more people actively contributed, Meducation would improve its utility. For now, I'll keep using Meducation here and there.