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From The CriticsReviewer: Valerie L. Ng, PhD MD(Alameda County Medical Center/Highland Hospital)
Description: This pathology review mobile download, based on Rubin's Pathology: Clinicopathologic Foundations of Medicine, 5th edition, Rubin and Strayer (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008), is a set of flashcards developed for use with the iPhone, iPod, or Blackberry.
Purpose: The purpose of presenting the material in this format is to provide a user-controlled mobile study guide for reviewing basic pathology material (definitions, concepts) or preparing for the USMLE. These worthy objectives are met by this product.
Audience: The audience would typically include medical students in the first few years of medical school or allied health science students learning pathology. The authors are well-respected authorities in the field.
Features: These flashcards are exactly as advertised. A voiceover reads the displayed question, with a pause (user controlled) for the user to think about the answer, followed by a voiceover announcing "answer" in combination with a card displaying "A," and then the answer. Musical cues signal moving from question to answer (i.e., front to back of the flashcard). In the hematopathology chapter, the material is very basic and the flashcards seem to focus predominantly on terms and definitions. Text corresponding to a definition is presented as a question, with the answer being the correct hematopathological term. A few cards at the end display cool images of hematopathological disease — I liked these a lot. The flash cards are easy to install on a PC, albeit I had to locate and download a program on the Internet to play them. Since I do not have a mobile device supported by this product, I asked one of my colleagues to try it out on his newly purchased iPod touch. He went through part of the process only to discover the file size was sufficiently large (at least 4 gigabytes) that he did not want to use up this much memory on his device and aborted the installation. He returned the product to me and I went to install it on my PC, only to find out the product key code was now linked to his mobile device and not available to anyone else for use. This raises the issue of how to install on both a PC and mobile device for a single user/purchaser — didn't seem to work for me. These flashcards do present a very faithful and comprehensive review of basic pathology. However, this product seems staid and static in an era heavily influenced by the graphics-intense electronic gaming industry. This format is no different than riffling through an actual stack of flash cards, with the only added feature being the voiceover reading the question and answer with a background of soothing music. The musical cues for switching between question and answer are repetitive and get annoying after awhile, as do the visual cues for answers — to the point I thought the millisecond delay and repetitive display of "A" (for answer) was wasted time. There are no cool video links or other instructional aids common to other electronic teaching materials (e.g., NEJM interactive multimedia review articles or case presentations.) So while this gets the job done, it's not too exciting or engaging.
Assessment: In my opinion, these review flashcards would be best for use on a jog or during other activity where seeing the flashcards is not important. Other than that, I thought viewing the flashcards electronically took more time than simply flipping through the actual cards.