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Wikipedia and the iPhone

Castro, Harvey MD

Emergency Medicine News: April 2010 - Volume 32 - Issue 4 - p
doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000369262.69911.38
DOC Approved

Dr. Castro is an emergency physician, the CEO of Deep Pocket Series (, and the creator of several iPhone apps, including IV MEDS, Stroke Scale, A Shockable Ringtone, Drug Seeker, and 1st Follow Up.



Sixty-four percent of U.S. physicians own smartphones, according to Manhattan Research, and by 2012, this number is expected to grow to 81 percent. ( This popularity in turn has created a huge demand for more medical information that can be accessed on these devices.

Wikipedia has been very successful in allowing individuals to contribute to multiple topics and create an open source database. It's difficult to believe Wikipedia was founded just nine years ago, and 20,000 encyclopedia entries were created that first year. By March 15, 3,222,412 articles could be found in the English Wikipedia. How does this relate to emergency medicine?



WikEM: Last year, the Harbor-UCLA emergency medicine residency program created WikEM, a database created from notes and checklists passed from resident to resident. The database has been consolidated and continuously updated, and it's now universally available.

This iPhone app is free, and has more than 8,000 users. While it's difficult to trust content with multiple contributors adding and changing the information, especially when you don't know who is making the changes, in this case, the database is a collaborative effort of the residents and faculty. A disclaimer states the residency does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the database, and for good reason: In the first 23 days of February, the database was changed 65 times.

This concept should be taken a step further, making it an open source to which all residencies can contribute. This would allow an enormous amount of information to be quickly updated and shared, unlike textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed. The advantage of such an application is obvious, but a disadvantage can be that the information may not be mainstream practice and may not be considered standard of care yet. Overall, the app is easy to use, and contains key topics of emergency medicine. The app does not contain any graphics, charts, or visual aids.



The Eye Handbook: This free app will far exceed your emergency department ophthalmology needs. The app contains many useful tools including near-vision cards, color vision, pupil gauge, penlight, and fluorescein light. The eye atlas has excellent pictures, and the app has an excellent section called “Diagnosis You Can't Miss.” The reference section includes Spanish translations of common ophthalmology terms, a dictionary, acronyms, and eponyms. The tools section has a pharmacopoeia and a retinal corneal drawing. It also has a way to obtain consent from your patients.

Tell us about your favorite apps by writing to Dr. Castro at

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