The one medical Android app to have if stranded on a deserted island

As a very full-featured free app, Medscape is worth a download. If you have space on your device, I strongly recommend you download the full database so you're prepared in any eventuality.
Written by Denise Amrich, Contributor

Public service announcement: Since the author has not, in fact, ever been stranded on a desert island — the closest she ever came was a bad night at the Cheesecake Factory — the survival techniques listed below are unlikely to work. If you're stranded on a deserted island and find yourself ill, please, as always, visit your doctor.

Let's say you're on a cruise in the middle of the Caribbean. You've been keeping your Android phone charged up, because you never know when the seas will be calm and you need to fire up a game of Angry Birds to keep you occupied.

All of a sudden, something goes terribly wrong. You hit an iceberg, or an oil drilling platform, or somehow find yourself in the middle of the Bermuda triangle.

The ship goes down. The only survivors are you and your special someone (and, of course, your trusty Android device which has somehow withstood the ravages of saltwater). You're alive, barely, and find yourselves washed up on a deserted island.

You're smart. You know you only have a eight or ten hours of battery life on your phone. After checking to see if you can get a signal to phone home, you fully power your phone off. Your plan is to keep it around just for emergencies — at least until you can MacGyver up your own solar charger out of burnt sand, lobster shells, and the secretions from the Uroplatus gecko.

Suddenly, you hear a scream. It's the love of your life and he or she has stumbled into a nest of chondropyga dorsalis beetles. You significant other has been considerably bitten.

What do you do? What do... you do?

If you're smart, you immediately power up your phone and open up the one medical Android app to have if stranded on a deserted island: Medscape, from WebMD.

At this point, two scenarios are possible. If you prepared fully before going on your trip, you downloaded the app to your phone, registered it, downloaded supplemental information, and then told it to download the entire 4000+ article clinical reference.

Otherwise, in Scenario Two (where you did no pre-trip survival preparation), you have to somehow McGyver up a wireless Internet connection, in which case you might as well just call home for someone to come pick you up.

Let's just move on assuming you're fully prepared. Medscape is a reference application that's rather extraordinary. It's a full medical database, in an app, and is available for free.

In addition to less desert-island-necessary features like medical news and continuing education information for medical practitioners, the Google Play app page lists the following features (and this is just a portion of what the app can do): 

  • Prescribing & safety information for 8,000+ brand & generic drugs, OTC drugs, and herbals and supplements
  • Drug interaction checker (input up to 30 drugs, herbals and/or supplements at once)
  • Save commonly searched drugs to a personalized 'saved' list for easy access
  • Special features include pill images, detailed drug pricing, pregnancy and lactation guidelines, and more
  • 4,000+ evidence-based articles authored by leading physician experts (supported with images and videos)
  • 600+ step-by-step procedure videos
  • 100+ tables and protocols
  • Sections include pathophysiology, epidemiology, differential diagnoses, workup, treatment, medication options, and more
  • Check 129 medical formulas, scales, and classifications
  • Over 600 drug monographs with integrated dosing calculators
  • Formulas, detailed notes, and references for each result 

As it turns out, most of this information can be downloaded and stored on your device, so even if you're without an Internet connection, you can do quick lookups.

The only limitation on the download is that Medscape doesn't download 2,500+ related images or videos. So, if you're stuck on a desert island, you won't be able to see a video overview of palpation in an examination for lower back pain. On the other hand, if you're stuck on a desert island without broadband, you'll also be spared watching Miley Cyrus cause herself lower back pain by "twerking" herself into ignominious displays of medically inadvisable behavior.

The bottom line is this: desert island or not, Medscape is worth a download. If you have space on your device, I strongly recommend you download the full database so you're prepared in any eventuality. And, remember, Medscape is no substitute for seeing your doctor. If you're hurt or ill, go to your doctor!

By the way, Medscape is also available for iOS. I wrote this article as a boon for the Android users among you because a bunch of you complained in the comments for last week's article, A treasure-trove of iOS apps for healthcare professionals, that I didn't show enough Android solidarity. Here you go. Stay healthy, y'all.

Editorial standards