Epocrates Free is the one smartphone app you must have as a pre-pa student (with the possible exception of the Inside PA Training App when it is released)!  It’s also available for Android phones, and online for use on your desktop or notebook computer.

Here’s the skinny on Epocrates Free:

Epocrates Free

We’ve reviewed smartphone apps for pre-PAs before, but never the biggie, the mainstay, the one.  No, we don’t shill for Epocrates Free, we just think it’s a great app that keeps getting better, for the low low price of a big goose egg.  (It’s free!)

Epocrates free started as a searchable drug reference, listing all of the US FDA approved prescription drugs and their individual details, including:

  • Generic & trade names.  A trade name is the patented, original version of  a drug that is usually more expensive, such as Prozac.  The generic is made by other manufacturers after the original patent expires.  Generics are almost always cheaper.
  • Approved uses for the drug
  • Formulations (tablet, capsule, spray, drops, inhaler, injectable/IV, etc)
  • Recommended dosing (milligrams, frequency of dosing, and duration of dosing for adults and pediatric patients)
  • Drug classes (antibiotic, opoiod pain killer, beta blocker, etc.)
  • Pharmacology (a 1-3 sentence summary of how the drug works)
  • Adverse reactions/side effects (both common and serious)
  • Price estimates and insurance forumlaries (a formulary is a list of drugs that are preferred by the different health insurance plans)

Whether you’re an EMT/medic, respiratory therapist/nurse/CNA/physical therapist or any other aspiring pre-PA student, Epocrates Free is great to have on-hand.  Why would you need a drug reference if you don’t yet prescribe drugs?

Think of all those times you see a drug that you don’t know about; maybe you’re treating a patient on the ambulance, or even seeing a doctor/ PA/NP for your own medical treatment.

When you see a drug you know nothing about, look it up by name, and learn all about it.  No need to memorize details at this point in your career.  Just familiarize yourself with the most common medications, and you’ve learned a lot about medicine that will come in handy as you study to become a PA.

As an EMT, I transported numerous patients whose paperwork was limited.  At times I wasn’t sure of the patient’s primary medical problems (a bad, but common practice among sending facilities).  I made it a regular practice to look over my patients’ medications, and write down those that I knew little about.  After work I would look them up to get familiar with them.  As I learned more drugs, I was able often to determine what illnesses they suffered from by looking at their meds.  Epocrates Free would have been great to have on hand.

Recent updates to Epocrates Free have added some nice features.  These include:

  • epocrates free for pre-pasDrug grouped by classes.  (for example, “antibiotics,” instead of just “Ciprofloxacin”).  This allows you to check out alternatives to a particular drug.
  • Drug interactions.  These used to be only found in the paid version, but now they’re free.  Just input the medications that you’re interested in checking, and Epocrates Free will tell you the seriousness of potential interactions (high/medium/low), and what they are.
  • Pill identification.  Answer a few questions about the appearance of the pill, and Epocrates Free will show you a picture of it and tell you what it is.  Great for those situations when patients are taking pills from unmarked bottles and don’t know/remember, or are unable to tell you what they are (ER, psychiatric emergency, paramedic medicine).
  • Free tools.  I use Epocrates Free’s BMI (body mass index) calculator frequently to determine the ideal weight for patients.  The cholesterol tool helps you determine the target cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, etc.) for a patient, along with their estimated 10-year risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac death.
  • Manufacturer contact information.

Optional paid versions of the Epocrates app (starting at about $100) will get you even more, including a searchable guide to diseases, monographs for herbal remedies, instructional videos of primary care procedures, and other features, but for pre-PAs, we don’t think these justify the cost.  Besides, similar disease monographs are available on other free resources, such as Medscape and Merck Medicus Mobile Edition, as we have reviewed previously.

Epocrates Free is the app that most doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and medical students use, and it’s simple enough to refer to while you’re with a patient.  Do yourself a favor, and get this app.[subscribe2]