For those of us who work clinically in an Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, prehospital, or other acute care setting, we know that our resources are limited and finite. Most of all, our time is limited. In our line of work, our demand is skyrocketing while we are expected to do a lot more with a lot less. This is where technology can be a tremendous help.
Over my 18 months in residency training so far, I have had the chance to try out many different tools and technologies to increase my productivity and aid in me in delivering quality, timely care. With the dramatic increase in volume of technology tools over the past years, it is hard to sort out what resources are valuable and which ones are white noise.
With the astronomical quantities of important data out there, it’s a huge challenge we face when we work clinically to not only remember which tools we need to use, but then the specifics – when the tools apply, what the evidence behind them are, what the caveats and quirks may be, and why they were devised and researched to begin with.
This site is a one-stop shop for all kinds of calculators and mathematical tools that are useful if not essential to my daily work. They are a physician founded and operated company with a simple mission – equip medical professionals of all types in all settings with the tools they need to deliver quality, evidence based despite the chaotic environments we work in today. All you need to use their services is an internet connection, and their application and website are 100% free. You can read more about their story here. Trust me, it is always great to see a company made for medical professionals that is extremely successful but remains humble and true to their mission.
There are a lot of great features packed into the MDCalc website and Apple Store application, which are both easily accessed once you set up a free account. Creating an account allows you to “favorite” any calculators or tools you use frequently or want to follow up on at a later time so they are quickly within reach. I have used the application and the website in the department and either way the website has a simple, user friendly interface which makes it easy to find what you are looking for and get to the point.
MDCalc has always been an integral tool since I discovered it in 2015, but recently, the makers released an updated product. The most significant update they’ve made is a new, improved, and patent pending search feature which actually allows you to search for calculators and tools based on a clinical scenario, chief complaint, and a variety of other qualifiers. The first of its kind, it enables you to combine elements to discover new tools. For example, if you are working a patient up for pulmonary embolism, you could combine “pulmonary embolism” and “diagnosis.” Later, if you are trying to understand how to counsel the patient and their family, you could combine “pulmonary embolism” and “prognosis.”
This is a gamechanger in the area of free open access medical education and medical calculators. With this new feature, it is extremely easy to simply put in a clinical scenario or chief complaint, and the site will show you any of the tools in its database which may apply. Before, you had to know generally which tool you were looking for in order to make the best use of MDCalc. However, now the makers have allowed users to not only find tools they already know about and need a refresher on, but also find new and unused tools!
This is definitely a huge tool for me. It is so difficult to find time to study and learn about the latest and greatest in research and evidence based medicine. Though this does not replace reading the primary literature and other forms of continuing education, it is a really pragmatic way for us all, regardless of our field or practice setting, to quickly look up accurate evidenced based information to help deliver the best care possible.
Outside of this bombshell of a feature, the MDCalc product also has a wide range of attributes which I love:
- Information about the researchers and creators who designed each tool in the first place, so you can read about the background of their work and get insight into their thought process and credentials
- Tools organized in multiple ways, including by specialty and by system, making it super easy and convenient to find exactly what you’re looking for or discover something new
- A continuously updated database of tools and calculators which ensures you are finding out about the newest and greatest, along with the tried and true, in terms of risk stratification tools and medical calculators
I attached screenshots of the beautiful mobile application showing how the calculators are listed, and using an example, we’re looking at the Modified Geneva Score for pulmonary embolism. As you can see, all tools are organized in the same consistent fashion, making it easy to learn and know where to look for information. You will see information about how the tool can be used, what the specific parts are, a calculator which interprets your score for you and then shows you the next steps, and background information on the minds behind the tool and references for further reading.