The UCSF NeuroExam Tutor app seeks to solve a problem that has faced medical educators for decades: medical students are uncertain and timid when performing the neurological exam. Educators suppose that this is because of the complexity of the nervous system and the multitude of ways to investigate its functions. However, it is even more troubling that this insecurity continues into the careers of clinicians from most specialties. To address this problem, UCSF neurologists Susannah Cornes and Vanja Douglas proposed a gentle introduction to the neurological exam over the four years of medical school. This innovative approach could not have been realized without the partnerships that lead to the creation of an iPad app.
- More than 60 high quality videos
- In-depth descriptions of how to execute more than 50 different physical exam maneuvers
- 6 interactive cases with real patient videos
- Descriptions of 8 exam categories with explanations of terminology and grading scales
- Quick reference flashcards for 6 common neurological complaints
- Pearls and pitfalls from the master clinicians at UCSF
While many projects in medical education are carried out by a single motivated educator, increasingly, ideas cannot reach their fullest potential without a team. The NeuroExam Tutor team consisted of several doctors, myself lending the perspective of a medical student, and and the Technology Enhanced Learning team in the UCSF School of Medicine Office of Medical Education. The app team became truly inter-professional when we partnered with Bandwdth, a digital publishing firm with experience creating rich multimedia driven apps. Throughout the process, specialists in educational theory, interface design, videography, and programming were all tapped to make the multimedia NeuroExam Tutor app a reality. This partnership was productive, exciting, and drastically different from most collaborative efforts within the hospital.
He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all. – William Osler
Our experience building this app highlights the fact that medical education is in a time of transition driven by the rising tide of technology and the availability of information. The “books” to which Osler refers are no longer just leather-bound tomes filled with yellowed pages. Today’s medical student is constantly bombarded by websites, apps, feeds and notifications that are the books of our age. Sounds, videos, and interactive problem solving activities promise to develop skills, as well as knowledge, as they guide students in the hospital and clinic. In developing the NeuroExam Tutor app, our aim was to create a resource that fulfills the role of the Osler’s books without forgetting that the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of patients’ lives.
I believe that the multi-disciplinary skills of the people involved in this project allowed us to tell the patient stories in a more engaging way. Students learn directly from the patients couched in those stories, and as a result, we capture some of the spirit of patient interaction and presence that Osler holds to be so fundamental.
In closing, I’d like to note that the NeuroExam Tutor project could not have achieved the goal of educating students while maintaining the primacy of the patient experience anywhere but UCSF. UCSF is a unique institution, insomuch as it embodies a culture of caring and respect for the patient experience, as well as an emphasis on fundamental knowledge and treatment. As medical education transitions to a curriculum that increasingly relies on technologically enhanced resources, UCSF is uniquely poised to imbue those resources with a human touch.
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BeyondPod is a popular Podcast/RSS manager for Android that, on the surface, works like you’d expect any application in this category to function. Find enjoyable podcasts, subscribe, listen, repeat. With a crowded, competitive field of podcast managers and podcatchers available for virtually every platform, BeyondPod distinguishes itself from competitors by offering users the ability to tweak and refine the individual user experience. The incredibly robust options and settings menus hiding underneath the primary user interface can be initially overwhelming, but the degree of customization offered by BeyondPod is exactly why it deserves to be on any Android user’s homescreen.Find some Podcasts, Subscribe. Find More!
If you’re new to podcasts and are curious about what’s available, there are plenty of places to look. Apple’s iTunes Store is an amazing resource for discovering popular and trending Podcasts, as well as the lesser-known offerings unique to your interests. More recently, Stitcher has become a good resource as well. BeyondPod has built similar functionality into their software, allowing users to discover, preview, subscribe, and listen to Podcasts all in one place.
On the primary interface an inconspicuous Add Feed button sits in the bottom-right corner and provides several ways of finding content you’ll enjoy. The Trending menu is always full with recent popular episodes and is a great way to find new content. Under Collections, podcasts are organized into providers, making it easy to view all offerings from a particular network, such as NPR, NASA, CNN, and more. Scrolling the menu ribbon to the left reveals categories such as News, Business, Comedy, Technology, Science & Medicine, Education, Culture, Arts, and the list goes on! BeyondPod will also recommend feeds based on feeds to which you are already subscribed. Finding relevant feeds via text search works brilliantly and is a great way to find content in a particular niche.
Once you’ve found a feed of interest, you can preview text, audio, and video before adding it to your subscription list. Feeds can also be added individually by URL, in bulk from OPML file, or via your Feedly account.Listen Up!
The BeyondPod player is functional and intuitive, though admittedly lacking the kind of polish and design you get with apps from Stitcher Radio or PocketCasts. From a usability standpoint, however, it has all the buttons you’d expect in all the right places (i.e. play/pause, skip forward/back, advance track) as well as some unexpected gems.
From the player menu, you can also adjust the playback speed of a Podcast from 1x, 1.5x, and 2.0x speed to move through content at a variable rate. Don’t like those speed options? You can edit those presets in the playback settings. There is also a Sleep timer which will pause playback at a given interval of time, or at the end of an episode, allowing you to resume the playlist at a later time.
Organizing your playlist is straightforward and touch-friendly. Drag an item up or down on your playlist with the swipe of a finger. Holding your finger on an item for a second brings up a secondary menu where you can remove it from the playlist, delete the episode from your device, view episode notes, or share it via another external app on your device.
Don’t like the internal player? You can set BeyondPod to default to external player software [e.g. MX Player, Winamp] for video, audio, or both.
Dive a little deeper into the settings and you’ll discover the SmartPlay feature. BeyondPod gives you the flexibility to create and organize your own podcast categories, and the SmartPlay feature lets you generate playlists effortlessly based on rules you create.
For example, a SmartPlay playlist can be built automatically from the most recent episode of every feed in my custom News category, then play the oldest episodes of a particular feed I’ve been neglecting.
In addition to the internal player, there are also Widgets to add to your Android’s homescreen and an optional lockscreen player, letting you seamlessly manage your playback. Similar to other audio players, you can also control playback via Android’s sliding status menu.Settings Galore.
BeyondPod’s most outstanding feature is the robust settings menu. If there’s a variable within the application you’d like to tweak, it is very likely the BeyondPod developers have given you the option to do so.
Under General Settings you can define where Podcasts are stored (internal memory, SD card, or a custom path), set how feeds are displayed and sorted, change the default orientation of the App (landscape, portrait, automatic), and change the default page to display when the app is launched.
Player preferences gives you control over how episodes are downloaded or streamed, what actions to perform after playing an episode, custom skip forward/back intervals, and more. When you unplug your Android’s headphones, do you want playback to continue or stop? That’s an option! Are you on a limited data plan and only want to stream episodes on WiFi? That’s an option! Do you have a video podcast that you’d rather listen to while you go for a jog? No problem. If your earbuds, headphones, or bluetooth listening device has playback buttons, you can even define what each of those buttons does.
Feed content settings allow you to change the font size for episode information, change feed background defaults, open links in a browser of your choice. You can also define whether you’d like to attach audio and video files to episodes when you share them, or choose to just share the download links.
You can also change how episodes are downloaded. While updating feeds, you can define the application to download a user-defined number of episodes automatically on WiFi, mobile data, or only on-demand. If local storage is an issue, you can also define how many files to keep within each feed and a maximum number of days old any episode can be before automatic deletion.Improve. Always.
BeyondPod has been actively developed for years. I’ve been using it since Windows Mobile 5.0, long before Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms distinguished themselves as the two major players in the mobile space. Though the app is entirely unrecognizable from those early days, the BeyondPod developers seem to always push forward with their product, continuously improving the user interface and adding features. Before Google Reader was discontinued, you could import feeds into BeyondPod with your Google credentials. In its stead, BeyondPod has now adopted Feedly as an option. Recent support for Google’s Chromecast has also been announced, allowing you to blast Beyondpod out to your television or other HDMI-equipped receiver. Beta features are available in the app as well, including an EpisodeSync feature that will synchronize the played positions for episodes across multiple devices.Where it Falls Short
BeyondPod is a purely Android experience. While there is a really nice version optimized for Tablets, there currently is no variant for iPhone/iPad, OSX, Windows, Linux, or for the Web. And though EpisodeSync promises to someday perfectly synchronize your experience across multiple Android devices, that feature is still in beta and falls well short of the multiple-device, multiple-platform synchronization we often expect today.The Bottom Line.
There is no lack of choice in the podcast app category (DoggCatcher, Stitcher Radio, Pocket Casts to name a few) and the actual content you consume will be the same regardless of the platform you choose. However, if the ability to customize and dial-in your settings matter to you, it is well worth the $6.99 cost to unlock all the Pro features. I don’t buy many mobile applications, and I rarely consider an application with a price over $0.99. But, the time I’ve spent customizing my BeyondPod experience has dramatically decreased the amount of time I spend managing playlists, files, and playback adjustments. That, coupled with BeyondPod’s continued support and development, has kept me a loyal fan for years.
BeyondPod acknowledges that each of us may want a slightly different experience, and it delivers personalization aplenty. This app really only performs one function – delivering video and audio podcasts to your eyes and ears – but it does it really well.
If you’re an iOS user, you might want to peer into this Santa’s sack. For a limited time, several mobile app creators are offering discounts on a selection of popular apps, many of which can help with productivity and idea capture. If you have a break over the holidays, it can be a perfect time to explore a new app or two before the hectic pace resumes. Boost your effectiveness in 2014!
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Looking for a tool to help you keep up with medical news and research while you’re on the go? Founded in 2010, Docphin is a free platform that personalizes the literature to make it quick and easy for you to hone in on the content from the sea of thousands of medical journals and news outlets that’s most relevant to you and your patients.
Let’s see what the Docphin experience looks like on an Android.
When you register for an account, Docphin will ask for typical information like your name and email address. It will also ask you to select your institution so that you can access full text content from paid resources. Once you select UCSF as your institution, all you’ll have to do is log in with your MyAccess credentials when you want to view paid content off campus, thanks to the library’s recent implementation of EZproxy. Additionally, you will also be asked to choose your training level (resident, student, fellow, etc.) and your area(s) of specialty. These details allow Docphin to customize the platform to your research interests.
Docphin can be broken down into three essential areas: Medstream, Journals, and Search. Medstream pulls the latest published news items and articles that are relevant to your specified area(s) of interest into one stream so that you can see them all on one screen.
The Journals screen allows you to choose journals to follow from over 5,000 titles so that the journals you’re most interested in will appear in one place for when you’d like to browse by title.
The Search screen provides the standard fields of article title, author, and journal title, as well as a set of filters to create a more advanced search.
Once you identify an article you’d like to read, you can select the View Article button on the bottom right corner of the screen.
Docphin will attempt to retrieve the article for you and, if it is paid content and you’re on the UCSF network, the full text should load if the library has a subscription to the journal. If it is paid content and you are off campus, it will pass you to the MyAccess log in screen. Simply log in with your credentials and the full text will load.
You also have the option to save the articles and create a PDF library within Docphin.
If you’re looking for a simple yet robust app to stay on top of medical topics of interest, Docphin is a great one to have on your mobile device. It manages to incorporate both sophisticated browsing and search tools to meet multiple research needs.
Docphin is also available as an iOS app and as a web version.
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Happy Holidays! Still searching for the perfect gift for the app-obsessed, Kindle-carrying gadget nerd in your life? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Have fun shopping!
The links above reflect the opinion of the author, Erin Hayes. The University does not endorse any of the products or views expressed here.