Tools for Productivity in Medical School and Beyond: Part 2

Abe Baker
Published on Oct 21, 2020. Updated on Oct 20, 2020.

Last week on the blog we talked about productivity tools for creating and tracking projects, time management, and focusing. Today on Part 2 of the blog, Osmosis Medical Education Fellow Abe Baker shares productivity tools to help make life easier for communication, mobile studying, and family/friends during medical school.

Tools for communication

Both now as a student and soon as a healthcare provider, effective communication is critical for classes and group projects.  Especially now with COVID-19 requiring most of us to shelter in place, we have to find ways to stay connected online instead of in the classroom or on the wards. 

Online texting tools – Google Messages: 

You probably already text your friends and classmates all the time; just wanted to mention that if you are texting a lot it might be worth looking for a way to type your texts. Messages for Web: once connected to your phone on your computer’s browser, you can type and send texts much more quickly than you could on your phone (plus it doesn’t use phone data either!)

Online chat – Group Me and Slack: 

Text isn’t great for communicating with large groups, so online group chat services like Group Me and Slack can be useful.  Group Me is free to use, so it is ideal for groups of students (e.g., each class in a school could have a Group Me channel).  

My main pet peeve about it is there is no way to delete or edit a message after sending it, and it can be challenging to search through previous messages in the app (and no dark mode on desktop. 

Slack is built for large organizations (like Osmosis) to empower their employees; although it isn’t free it has many more useful features and integrations with other sites and apps.

Web meetings – WebEx, Zoom:  

Previously used for cross-country and international meetings, web-conferencing software has become a part of daily life for nearly everyone stuck at home sheltering-in-place.  As a student, you might already know how to connect to one of these meetings, but you should take the opportunity now to learn how to create and host your meetings.  

This is critical if you’re going to continue the study groups, student-interest group meetings, and review sessions you held before the pandemic started.  Going forwards telemedicine will become more commonly used in a wider array of specialties, so you might as well get used to running meetings now.

Setting up meeting times – Doodle, When2Meet

You can’t hold a meeting if nobody can fit it in their schedules, and often you can’t know their schedules without asking.  Rather than have a convoluted scheduling email chain that leaves everyone frustrated, use a scheduling site like Doodle polls or When2Meet to let everyone show when they’re free to meet.  That way you can quickly find times where all or most of your group can meet.  

Tools for mobile studying  

Just wanted to list some apps I think medical students should consider keeping installed on their phones:

Osmosis app:  

You can do almost anything you could do on the Osmosis website in the Osmosis mobile app, and this is a perfect way to get through your daily spaced repetition queue away from your computer (e.g. standing in line somewhere)


Unlike Step 1, you don’t have to have all the loading dose and calcium-correction equations memorized on the wards as long as you know where to find them.  MDCalc puts all these equations in one place so you can be prepared for rounds instead of looking all over the web for that one formula you can’t remember.  Also handy for clinical decision tools such as the CENTOR criteria for strep throat.


If you ever travel on an airplane (esp for residency interviews), keep AirRx on your phone just in case a medical emergency happens, and the attendants call for a doctor to help (even as a medical student, you should be able to help in some way).

The app lists what medical supplies are likely available on a plane based on its country of origin. It gives a good algorithm for diagnosis and first-aid treatment without labs/imaging, and even has medico-legal guidelines listed by country (e.g. Good Samaritan laws). 


Use this for your Family Medicine clerkship even if your preceptors don’t ask you to:  it helps filter the long list of grade A&B recommendations for screening tests based on what is relevant to your patient (by age, sex, pregnancy, tobacco use, and sexual activity). 

I would also recommend uploading a deck of USPSTF guideline flashcards to Osmosis to get more practice applying these guidelines.

Tools that help include friends and family

It’s not enough to create a plan, track your time usage, and stay focused: the people in your life are a part of your productivity resources:


Let your family know well ahead of time when you have a big test coming up, and they will (hopefully) give you space to stay focused.  You can also ask them to be part of your “accountability team” and keep them up to date on your progress (e.g., during Step 1 dedicated) so you don’t fall behind on your goals.


You can find classmates who are studying the same thing you’re working on (e.g., Step 1 dedicated, or students on the same clerkship rotation preparing for the shelf exam).  Create a study group and ask them to join you; just make sure you keep each other focused on test prep instead of just distracting each other.  It might also be useful to get to know classmates at another campus of your school, or even at other medical schools; you can collaborate online to stay focused.


That dreaded, 50-page document everyone gets at the start of the block/rotation (the syllabus) has the details you need to know what things have to be done and when they’re due: read it! 

If you still have questions about your assignments or how to do well at clinical sites, don’t hesitate to reach out to your school faculty members; as teachers, they should want to answer your questions and help you succeed.  You should often check in with them (perhaps weekly) for feedback on how you’re doing and how to improve.

Osmosis team-members: 

Osmosis has your back, literally! (check our core values) The Osmosis platform is designed to help organize your studies and make sure you are well-prepared for exams and clinical life, but keep in mind our team is also here to help you on this path.  

If you have questions about using any part of the Osmosis software, just click the speech bubble icon in the lower right corner of the screen and contact Osmosis team members directly.  

You can also become part of our team by applying to be an Osmosis Medical Education Fellow (OMEF)!  As a student representative, you can advocate for your classmates and bring feedback and suggestions for improvement to the design team.


About Abe

Abe Baker is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Illinois Chicago-Rockford College of Medicine campus. He is interested in Internal Medicine but still enjoys learning from every specialty. Abe enjoys teaching in his roles as a Peer Educator and as an Osmosis Medical Education Regional Lead. He is also a Wikipedian; you can find him here. Thanks to his multitasking skills, Abe manages to find time to play violin and viola as well as do long-distance and trail running.


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