Physicians opined for years how important – and difficult — it was that they keep up with journals and academic literature in their respective fields of expertise, either in general, primary care, or specialty practice.
“Keeping one’s personal fund of knowledge current is one of the most formidable challenges that physicians face,” wrote Christine A. Laine and David S. Weinberg in the Annual Review of Medicine in 1999.
Today, “literature” or “journals” is only a mere collective speck of that knowledge landscape as the terrain has shifted seismically, reflecting the information surge through society. For doctors, there is not only the barrage of new information to sort through, but the fact is: they want information now. Staying on top of evolving clinical practice knowledge helps ensure the best patient care and improves physician work and well-being.
And there is certainly a vast array of resources vying for physicians’ attention. There is email, social media, podcasts, live meetings, Facebook and Twitter, which can be absorbed in real time, and practitioners can glean that information in different ways.
Years ago, physicians were known to read a select group of favorite journals cover-to-cover. As doctors keep up with their daily demands, they are spending in some cases mere minutes or seconds perusing abstracts of journals, written or online. In a survey of cardiologists, TCTMD asked 130 respondents how many read journals. An overwhelming majority – 90 percent – did, but only 2.3 percent said they read them from beginning to end, as they might have done a generation ago.
“”The average physician does not receive a physical copy of a journal at their office or home, but instead, receives email notifications of new issues,” wrote Milton Packer, MD in MedPage Today. “Some dutifully click on the table of contents, but they spend less than 30 seconds perusing the titles.”
“There is no guilt associated with ‘not keeping up,’’ Packer added. “Everyone has conceded that they can’t – and won’t be current in their medical reading. How bad is it? Much worse than you think.”
Anticipation may be too great, in some cases. It may take years for a journal article, for instance, to be published, and by then some physicians think they can get more updated information and have a virtual conversation on Twitter to debate the clinical issue at hand.
As information flows constantly, more physicians and researchers continually explore new channels of obtaining information, with many new innovations at their disposal. They are looking for depth, breadth, and better and speedy access to information as clinical inquiries mount.
There are a host of possibilities: There are point –of- care references at hospital computers, independent networks and journal clubs that make medical research databases available. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a set of clinical practice and education tools to help them manage their care.
In 1950, doctors could expect the total amount of medical information to double every 50 years, according to the NEJM Knowledge. By 2020, it would take just 73 days. – Joe Cantlupe, Health Data Buzz.