Quick Hit – Time to change the way healthcare information is disseminated

By | April 25, 2010

I spend a fair amount of time reading various medical, pharmacy and technology journals. Why? That’s a very good question. I was taught in pharmacy school that you need to read a host of journals every week to stay up to date on current trends for the betterment of your knowledge base and the patients you care for. So like any self-respecting pharmacist that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 13 years.

With that said, my view of the medical literature is starting to change. The information in journals today is out of date by the time it’s published. This is especially true when it comes to any journal articles related to technology. A recent conversation with a friend and colleague verified this when he mentioned that much of his research findings could take as long as a year to grace the pages of a journal. That’s just plain crazy. If advancing technology has taught us one thing it’s that no one should have to wait a year to become better informed.

This may not apply to all information; facts need to be checked, calculations verified and references scrutinized, but if the material is informational only then it should be throw out there immediately for the rest of the world to digest. I want to know what technology you’re using to make your pharmacy safer and more efficient, and I want to know now. It does me no good to read about your problems implementing BCMA six months after I’ve already done it. However, that information would have saved me a lot of headaches if it would have appeared in journal form three months before I did it.

I’ve only been published once during my career; back in 2002. The article was informational and described currently available pharmacy software for the Palm Pilot. The article appeared in a “throw away” journal, but the entire process took a few months from submission until it appeared in print. Today I could throw the equivalent information up on my website in about 30 minutes, and the information would be no less accurate or valuable to those people reading it. The downside of course is fewer people would be exposed to the article on my site versus a journal, but you get the point.

We’ve done healthcare an injustice by creating a process that is riddled with old school thinking and ridged requirements that shouldn’t necessarily apply to all published material. This is especially true when you consider the nature of e-publishing, blogs, newsletters, etc. The ability to disseminate information has never been simpler.

Not only is the lag of printed journal articles creating a lack of information, it’s creating dangerous situations as well. Sometimes bits and pieces of information from a study involving medication will find its way into practice without all the facts. This is because word of mouth travels faster than the published literature. Unfortunately the information isn’t always complete or accurate, which creates poor practice habits that are hard to break.

I am encouraged by organizations like ASHP that appear to be moving in the right direction. They provide me with electronic newsletter updates on a regular basis, but most of the information is readily available other places for those willing to look. It’s the new information they should be pushing out to their members.

Waiting several months for information may have been fine when print journalism was our only way of communicating, but things have changed and journals like JAMA, NEJM, JAMIA, AJHP, etc need to also change. If the cause of the delay is the actual production process then maybe it’s time to abandon paper in favor of technology. And if you’re not keen enough to use available technology to access the information then perhaps you shouldn’t be practicing in today’s healthcare environment. I’m just sayin’.

One thought on “Quick Hit – Time to change the way healthcare information is disseminated

  1. Jerry Fahrni Post author

    Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Just finished reading “Learning in a Virtual World: Experience With Using Second Life for Medical Education” in the Jan-Mar 2010 issue of Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org/2010/1/e1/HTML). When I got to the bottom of the article here’s what it said:”submitted 14.08.09; peer-reviewed by L Beard, L Johnson, P Yellowlees; comments to author 02.09.09; revised version received 09.11.09; accepted 18.11.09; published 23.01.10″. So the information was compiled before August of 2009. Nice.

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