Information technology has transformed the everyday practice of medicine. I use my i-pad constantly: looking up medication interactions, calculating body mass indices and assessing future risk of heart disease. The Department of Public Health sends a fax with the most recent flu data. I have electronic access to the most current treatment guidelines.
However wonderful these new tools are, there is no substitute for peer-reviewed medical literature to keep a physician current. Newspapers and television programs might report the latest news, but there is no substitute for reading the original article. In order to really understand the material one has to delve into ‘materials and methods’ and determine if the conclusions are truly supported by the data. There is often a critical editorial, written by an expert in the field, which will add another perspective. The new information then must be integrated into the body of current knowledge.
Every week there is a fresh New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA. More important to my practice is the biweekly Annals of Internal Medicine. Not only do these journals present cutting edge medicine, they also have review articles that summarize the state of the art for various diseases and conditions. The NEJM has a clinical problem every week – it’s fun to guess the diagnosis just from the title (Shepherd with a Cough, Bolivian Immigrant with a Rash, Accountant with a Headache).
Right now, printed journals work best for me. However, once I read them I toss them into the recycling bin, since the contents are available on-line. My affiliation with Yale allows unlimited access – much better than the piles of journals that cluttered the office in the olden days.