Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why the web is a much better way of delivering CME for doctors

Most doctors learn best around their patients, because this information is " sticky" . For most patients with "routine" clinical problems, doctors do not need to refer to their text books . They use their experience to deal with bread and butter problems. However, when they are presented with a patient who has an unusual clinical problem , they do need to refer to medical text books and journals - and the most useful medical information is the information which they can access easily at the " point of care ". Once they encounter a patient with a particular illness , and learn about the management of this issue at that time, this is information which remains with them for the rest of their life, so they can easily access it again whenever they encounter another patient with a similar problem. This is why clinical experience is so highly valued - and why patients are so relieved when their doctor says - I have seen a patient like you before !" .

The best way of providing this kind of "patient-specific" information to doctors is through the internet. The web has now become practically ubiquitous all over India - and most doctors have a PC and/or smartphone with an internet connection.

The good news is also that there are lots of online resources about diseases available free. However, most of these resources are for patients - and while they can be very useful, not only is their quality is patchy , they are often of limited use to doctors, because they are not technical or detailed enough ; and may not be regularly updated.

These free resources - for example, open source medical textbooks and journals are very useful for a quick review - and while some are of high quality, they are still not always reliable or authoritative.

The gold standard is still published medical journals and textbooks. All publishers recognise this fact, which is why all medical journals are now available online. However, doctors need to pay a subscription fee to access these journals - and these fees can add up very quickly !

Ideally, what Indian doctors need is a single web site, which provides them access to the full text of updated reliable published medical books and journals , which they can refer to when they are stumped by a patient; or need to brush up their knowledgebase. It should be available 24/7; be affordable; cover all specialties; be updated and authoritative; and without advertising.

The good news is that MDConsult meets all these needs - and my next article will discuss how Indian doctors are using MDConsult.

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