HOW TO KEEP UP WITH EVER EVOLVING KNOWLEDGE IN MEDICINE?Dr. Alishba Kainaat - December 14, 2021
As long as we humans exist, we wish to live a healthy and especially long life. Throughout history we have tried to control and overcome diseases.
Medicine is constantly evolving expertise that moved from organism to organ to tissues to cells and from cells to its molecular constituents.
Seemingly endless advancements in medical knowledge, approaches, and techniques led to several breakthrough discoveries such as penicillin, anaesthesia, medical imaging, and organ transplantations to name but a few.
In the 20th century medical knowledge evolved more rapid than ever before and made practising medicine more complicated. Take medical advancements that play an important diagnostic and therapeutic role for instance.
Evidence based medicine is now deemed vital in reducing the financial burden and in protecting the healthcare system.
Back in time when I was a first year MBBS student, every time I walked into a 60 year old consultant’s office it left me wondering; ‘Why is he still reading books during his free time and why are his cabinets adorned with thick medical books?’.
I would often catch him reading medical books or journals in the library even with several decades of clinical experience under his belt.
One day, I gathered up the courage to ask him these questions. He sweetly replied; ‘My dear future doctor! During my schooling and training years, I have learnt a hand full of therapeutic options. Today, depending upon the efficacy and individual need of the patient, there are many more options to be considered. This means a doctor should not only be aware of clinical trials and drug advancements but also keep him or herself regularly updated with new research outcomes to help make better decisions based on the up-to-date knowledge.
in a time efficient manner.
Our profession demands to stay up to date and push ourselves to keep evolving as well. Medical knowledge is currently expanding at an exponential pace and requires us to be a lifelong learner. That’s why, what we do is called ‘practice’ even after years of clinical experience’.
It seemed a daunting task to me at that time but soon I realised that his words were entirely accurate. Working in Healthcare means maintaining your expertise and staying on top of best practices to cure our patients in the best possible as well as a cost-effective manner.
But it is very hard to find the time to keep up with the latest medical advances due to increased workload and packed schedules.
It’s safe to say, staying current in 21st century medicine is very challenging. Transformations that were taking 50 years in the past are now taking place every 3 months as medical knowledge is doubling every 73rd day. There’s a constant and rapid stream of new researches and technological advancements to potentially improve the healthcare system as a whole. I’d like to share a few methods to help you stay up to date with the latest developments and best practices:
Be a child, question everything!
You have to be intrinsically motivated to keep wanting to be the best version of yourself. Connect with the curious streak you had when you where young and you still had a ton of questions. Find that built in trigger to go on a relentless quest for knowledge. Maintain your curiosity and inquisitiveness with an appropriate degree of skepticism. It requires diligence and effort.
Accept that change happens every day, medicine isn’t static. Don’t fight new insights, instead embrace them. This is particularly true now with emphasis on evidence based medicine.
We are often enticed to use old techniques and therapies because we are familiar with it or they have been successful in the past.
This actually prevents us from growing as a healthcare professional. Keep your exploring mindset and expect that your education will continue throughout your career.
Focus without blinders
Focussing on a specific field allows us to deep dive into a specific area of expertise and filters out the other areas. That makes sense, there’s little reason for a pulmonologist know everything about bipolar disorders or fibula plate systems. Specialising allows us to fully grasp developments made in our chosen medical field which further reduces time and stress to keep ourselves updated with recent advancements.
However, specialising doesn’t mean you should never look beyond your own specialty. Some of the best most recent progress came from cross speciality experience.
Tools to stay on top of it
Within a few minutes, we can update ourselves with the most current and relevant researches in medicine by harnessing the power of technology. Literature review is important to attain, to maintain, and to improve medical knowledge and competence.
Recognised Medical Journals are still great to keep up with recent advances. Fortunately some journals summarise information to save you time. In our digital society you can read new information as soon as is released.
Perfect for long commutes is learning about recent advances in medical literature through podcasts. Just listen to peers discussing advancements in medicine while you journey home.
Everyone of your colleagues is learning and refining their knowledge. Discussing learnings with peers encourages everyone to stay current. Information is most helpful when used to answer questions about a patient’s condition, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, or prognosis and the recent researches & advancements in therapeutics. Exchange of such information and the information elicited from peers remains the leading source of medical information while sitting in a hospital with a packed schedule. So let’s take a look at your best resources;
Local and international meetings and courses
Conferences or CME (continuing medical Education) are theme based gatherings, most related to your (sub)speciality. Great to get the highlights of recent advances in medicine from various qualified presenters and panels. Even if you are very busy with increased workload, try to attend at least one conference each year.
Going through latest editions of textbooks to have a detailed guide about advancements in medical diagnostics and therapeutics.
Online tools and platforms
From a technical perspective, it’s amazing what you can review on your smart phone. There are many web tools and apps for healthcare workers to provide clinical decision support. Some with a one time payment, others with a recurring subscription fee.
Connecting with peers at PONSIST is a wonderful free and global alternative.
PONSIST is healthcare social media for verified Medical specialists. It has a unique way to spread medical information, peer experience and insights in a safe and secure online environment.
Allowing you to cross borders, both physically and professionally. Learn from colleagues in your field of expertise and educate others by sharing your own best practices. Talking to each other online has never been easier. You won’t have to establish a personal connection or have followers. You are in full control of your timeline, algorithms do not dictate or filter what you see. Instead your timeline is based on your input.
There’s a second timeline called Affiliations, it’s there to give you a place to set up collaborations around the globe. Find support to set up clinical trials, use it to increase to the numbers needed to treat for faster outcomes, or perhaps just to find peers to join in peer visits or symposia.
It is one hundred procent advertisement and sponsor free. It doesn’t collect your data and it doesn’t track your activity.
Anyone outside the medical profession won’t be granted access, so you can be sure you interact with verified colleagues.
Keeping an eye on the future, there are several things that can, and probably should be developed to support doctors and nurses to stay relevant.
On an administration level, processes can be devised in Healthcare systems to help healthcare professionals tackle the knowledge explosion and staying current with recent medical advancements.
Medical data is continuing to accumulate, so it won’t be a bad idea to employ specialised staff trained to review researches, identify clinical trials, and newly discovered therapeutic choices. Task them with crafting summaries and recommendations for medical professionals.
Such a team can be called Para-professionals. They won’t be directly involved in providing clinical care, but will keep doctors and nurses updated about recent publications, clinical trials, case reports, and advancements in diagnostics and therapeutics.
A practical way is to incorporate new guidelines into the standard practice protocols with clinical decision support algorithms.
Today, the science of living organisms has become so complex that any investigation requires looking at many interactive processes, such that, more than ever, an interdisciplinary systems approach is needed to understand physiology and the science of medicine.
Data from multiple sources comes at us in bigger chunks, faster and cheaper.
Building a medical ecosystem basically requires a collaboration among all healthcare workers in which data from all the medical professionals is integrated and shared among all. Already ahead of this thought is PONSIST. The way information is distributed is entirely based on this all inclusive idea, overlapping knowledge is already cross linked within the system.
Key to the challenge of using the endless output of new medical information might be the use of automated programs and software to analyse data, solve problems, bring in interdisciplinary expertise, and integrate and prioritise diverse data sources in large and complex information systems. Artificial intelligence can be used to collect and summarise medical information and provision of treatment recommendations. However, it will take much more experience and human finesse to generate precise and meticulous medical content.
In conclusion, peer to peer knowledge sharing remains the single most efficient way to stay informed. No matter what tool you prefer, it’s always based on human experience and peer experience.
Talk to each other, learn form each other, and never stop sharing.
About the author
Dr. Alishba Kainaat, MBBS(FUMC, Islamabad Pakistan) Rawalpindi, is an enthusiastic learner, an avid reader and a passionate doctor who never gives up on her ambitions.