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Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Apps Worth Reviewing

January 2015

By Tom Stibolt, MD, Mobile Musings Column Editor

There seem to be a lot of medical applications on the market. A search in the Apple App or Google Play stores reveals hundreds of them. Many are apps for reading journals, including our American Thoracic Society Journals App, which provides access to the full text of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, and the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

There are several other apps that aggregate articles from multiple sources related to a given field. An example of this is PulmCCM, a free app available for Android and iOS platforms. This independent group is not affiliated with or endorsed by any other organization, society, or journal. According to the group, its editors and contributors review and summarize articles from more than 30 medical journals including the ATS Journals, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Critical Care, and Chest. The reviews seem well written and up to date.

ICU Rounds is an app for iOS that has short articles on ICU topics presented by Jeffrey Guy, MD, the chief medical officer of TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, TN, who created the series while overseeing the Burn Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The app provides live episodes of rounds covering various topics. There is also access to a library of earlier topics. The app is available for $1.99, or listeners can access the podcasts free.

Sensitivity & Specificity, a free app for iOS and Android platforms, provides sensitivity and specificity of hundreds of medical tests with literature citations included. The authors use peer-reviewed papers that perform meta-analysis whenever possible. For tests that have only been studied once, they cite the single paper provided it was a high-quality study. If there are multiple studies, but no meta-analysis has been performed, they examine the quality of the studies, how respected the journals are, and how recently the data was collected.

ICU Trials by ClinCalc, a $4.99 app for both Android and iOS, provides outcomes from about 80 clinical trials in critical care medicine going back to 1985. New trials are added on a frequent basis, according to the vendor. When one clicks on a trial, a gray box at the top of the page summarizes the “bottom-line” trial result. Further details are found by scrolling down through bulleted key points summarizing methodology and findings. A link to the free full-text article and a literature citation are also provided. Trials can be viewed as an alphabetical list, grouped by topic, or found using search.

My search for specific apps to help physicians who are treating sleep disorders yielded   two $6.99 educational apps for iOS and Android and approved by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Insomnia Guidelines Pocket Card and Sleep Apnea Guidelines Pocket Card. The vast majority of the apps that I found, sadly, purported to allow patients to self-diagnose without sleep studies of any type. A June 2014 review of several of these in Sleep Breath concluded that these apps are not accurate enough to replace the common diagnostic standard in therapy. They may be a helpful addition especially for singles who do not know if their snoring has improved with treatment and do not have anybody to ask. Sleep is an area with much opportunity for app development.

Editor’s note: with exception to the American Thoracic Society Journals App, the ATS does not endorse any of the programs or products mentioned in this column.

Last Reviewed: September 2017