A Match Made in NEJM: iPad App Review

A Match Made in NEJM: iPad App Review

Thanks to a newly built software application (or “app”), the Journal can now be downloaded and read in an issue format on the iPad. The NEJM iPad Edition is now available in the iTunes App Store at no charge. The issue of February 23, 2012, is free, so that readers can see how an issue looks, works, and reads on their iPads. The app is designed as an issue-based reader, meaning that it allows downloads of the full text of single issues, including figures and tables, beginning with the first issue of 2012.

Learning to navigate easily within and between articles and to the table of contents and extra features takes only a little practice. The app allows the reader to change the text size and to bookmark articles, add and save notes, e-mail articles, and even share articles on Facebook and Twitter. Readers can search both within an issue and across all the issues that have been downloaded to their device. The app includes an article feed for direct access to all articles published online first.

In addition to the full text of the articles in an issue, the iPad Edition includes the audio summary, audio interviews, and the full-text audio for Clinical Practice articles. New Videos in Clinical Medicine can be viewed, as can the questions in each issue for continuing medical education credit. The slide sets of figures and tables can be displayed on the iPad, and there are links to supplementary content. Because of technical restrictions imposed by the device makers and software developers, our interactive graphics, the Interactive Medical Cases, and supplemental videos are not available in the iPad Edition, since they do not work on the device. We hope to find ways to make these features available in the future. We also hope to adapt the app for use with other tablet computer formats that our subscribers are using.

The app has been launched with all issues published so far in 2012, our 200th anniversary year. Individual subscribers to the Journal can log on to the new iPad app using the same username and password that they use at NEJM.org. In other words, the subscriber’s current password works for both the website and the iPad app. Each subscriber’s access to issues within the app is tied to the term of the subscription. Through iTunes, nonsubscribers can purchase an iPad-only monthly subscription, but subscriptions purchased through Apple’s iTunes Store give access only to new issues as they become available on the iPad and not to full content on our website.

For decades, computers have been changing how we work, think, read, and communicate. It was just 2 years ago that the major new tablet computers became available. Already they are accelerating the changes in communication and learning in the medical world — once a world defined largely on paper. Now we are in a hybrid environment with an exciting, sometimes dizzying, array of options for digital information delivery. We strive to deliver the Journal in as many ways and on as many devices and platforms as are needed. For now, we invite readers who use the iPad to try the new app. As always, feedback is welcome, and additional future innovations are certain.

This year marks the Bicentennial of The New England Journal of Medicine. As the “oldest continuously published medical journal in the world,” NEJM has heralded many great discoveries and advances in medicine within its veneratble pages: to name a few, the first use of surgical anesthesia (1846), the first description of chemotherapy (1948), and the first application of targeted molecular therapies for cancer (2001). Now these and future announcements will be available in an unprecedented form, because on its 200th anniversary NEJM transformed its ink into pixels and its paper into iOS by introducing the NEJM iPad App.

NEJM provided their iPad App to Medgadget for review, and overall we like what see. The following is the breakdown:

Ease of use: Even though the iPad has been lauded for its singular ease of use, the same cannot be said for many of its apps. Fortunately NEJM is not one of those apps – they nailed it by creating a very intuitive interface. The welcome screen is the Store with thumbnails of each of NEJM‘s weekly issues that can be simply previewed and downloaded (free to existing subscribers; $14.99/month, or $5.99/issue; one free fully functional issue). There are also quick link buttons that allow users to change font size, bookmark articles of interest, or search the entire issue or one’s whole issue library for specific terms. Hopefully the ease of use is a first baby step to bringing nontraditional readers to the journal.

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Readability: Do not worry, traditionalists! The overall formatting style of the NEJM app resembles that of the print issue (and online articles). One key advantage though is that the journal is interactive, and one can find the definition of many words, such as “embolism,” by simply highlighting them. That being said, the feature has a lot more potential and we hope that NEJM makes a step towards improving it. For example, certain medically relevant word phrases such as “tachyarrhtyhmias” and “hazard ratio” cannot currently be looked up using the app. Also, though it makes for easy reading that the tables and figures are set off to the side and can be expanded if desired, we wish that each table/figure was at least in line with the paragraph that refers to it. Scrolling up and down an article is not continuous but rather discreet, sort of like turning a page, and one can inadvertently slide to the previous or following article with too quick a side stroke. On the plus side, endnote numbers are hyperlinked and when clicked pop up the reference rather than move the page, thereby allowing for easy browsing. Eventually, we hope that the references themselves will be hyperlinked and browsable in-app so that one can read related abstracts if so desired.

Social- and Multimedia: The NEJM iPad App features a number of bells and whistles that integrate with modern media. In addition to the traditional article sharing via e-mail, the iPad App now makes it easy to link papers of interest to Facebook and Twitter (though it would also be nice to have an optionally visible comment feed below each article). One can also add personal notes to each article, which can then be e-mailed for long term retention. Speaking of e-mail, the corresponding author’s e-mail is hyperlinked for easy in-app e-mailing should one want to reach out.

The coolest multimedia features, however, have to do with the audio and images. If one is in a multitasking mood, he or she can listen to the 15-30 minute audio summary for a particular issue while browsing through the articles. Furthermore, the iPad interface allows for better interaction with images. For example, there is an amazingly detailed chest X-ray film in the March 15, 2012 issue that clearly shows the left lung bronchiole tree due to the patient having accidentally aspirated barium. In the print or online issue it would not be possible or as easy to interact with the image by, for example, magnifying it. It actually feels as if you’re holding the film in your own hand!

Overall: If you enjoy keeping up to date with groundbreaking medical news (which we know you do, given that you’re on Medgadget) it’s worth your while to check out the NEJM iPad App. Browse the free trial issue to see if you like it. They’ve enhanced the reader experience, particularly with regards to social media and multimedia, though admittedly there is room for improvement given that is version 1.0.1. We look forward to seeing what the next versions will look like!

Source : http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe1201837

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