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Medical knowledge doubles every few months; how can clinicians keep up?

A smart clinical search engine helps staff at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust access the latest information

The lobby of Blackpool Victoria Hospital – part of the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the UK.
The lobby of Blackpool Victoria Hospital – part of the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the UK.

Like most clinicians, Consultant Histopathologist Dr. Lipsita Patnaik, wants to give her patients the best possible care, but she faces a significant challenge.

Medical knowledge has been expanding exponentially. Whereas the doubling time was an estimated 50 years back in 1950, it accelerated to 7 years in 1980, 3.5 years in 2010, and a projected 73 days by 2020, according to a 2011 study in Transactions of the Amercan Clinical and Climatological Association.

Healthcare practitioners struggle to keep on top of every new piece of information, and that can have an impact on patient care.

It’s a challenge that Elsevier’s tools are helping clinicians overcome.

“In the past, I would have to rely on numerous sources and go through multiple channels to access the evidence-based information I required,” said Dr. Patnaik, an educational and clinical supervisor at the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the UK.

In fact, obtaining current and credible information in a timely fashion was considered  a key challenge across the trust, which provides acute services to 330,000 people of the Fylde Coast, and community health services to 440,000 residents across the west coast of Lancashire, as well as the 11 million visitors to the seaside town of Blackpool. Clinicians had resorted to using multiple sources of information, ranging from standard search engines, where content may be unreliable, to hard copy journals in the medical library, which took time to find and read.

Taking steps towards 2020 vision

Colleagues at the trust are working towards their vision of being accredited as a high-performing NHS Trust by 2020, recognised for providing safe, high quality, effective care. The team recognized that inadequate access to information was limiting clinicians’ ability to deliver healthcare to the standard they desired.

To tackle the issue, they chose Elsevier’s clinical decision support solution ClinicalKey. The platform could provide more reliable content than conventional search engines, and more up-to-date and accessible than the hard-copy journal library.

With essential clinical information gathered in a single platform, clinicians found they had more time to spend with patients, and they could draw on more evidence-based decision making content that referenced the latest best practices and case studies.

As Dr. Patnaik explained:

The easy access to various educational resources helps me to formulate a differential diagnosis in histopathology and gives further leads for additional reading material. This information works to augment my own clinical decision-making skills.

ClinicalKey is now used consistently throughout the hospital, with all specialties making use of the tool. ClinicalKey is also helping the trust, which has been at Blackpool since 2010, build a culture of education for all clinicians, facilitating easy access – at home and in the hospital – to the full range of current, evidence-based materials.

Improved efficiencies are also being seen outside the clinical setting. The instant access to ClinicalKey’s reference sources have maximised cost-efficiency for the trust by enabling multiple types of content to be accessed from one resource.

Debra Thornton, Knowledge and Library Services Manager at the trust, acknowledges the impact this has had in helping the trust achieve its 2020 vision: “ClinicalKey is helping the trust’s Library Department with its core objective of raising awareness of the importance of research evidence in clinical practice, and to support research, evidence-based care and service improvement.”

Outcomes of ClinicalKey implementation

Since implementing ClinicalKey at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:

  • There has been widespread adoption across the trust, with overall usage increasing by 70 percent in the past year.
  • Clinicians are utilising it across all fields of practice specialties.
  • It has maximised a cost-effective culture of education for clinicians, with easy access to a full array of evidence-based materials.

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