The field of medical education has changed drastically in recent years. From the advent of the internet and the development of social media platforms to the rise of decision-support tools and patient management systems, the methods healthcare professionals (HCPs) use to remain updated on recent developments has evolved substantially. Here are the top 5 ways HCPs stay up to date on breaking developments in their fields.
One of the most common and effective ways the average HCP receives their medical updates is from their colleagues. If one physician learns about a new breakthrough in treatment or a new strategy for managing patient care, they are quick to share this information with their peers. This may include other doctors in their organization and social circle, as well as the nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists with whom they interact. In this way, education of a single HCP often results in education of an entire group. Beyond interaction with direct colleagues, interactions with thought leaders also provide an avenue for education. For example, if a physician is uncertain regarding the interpretation of recent data or unclear as to how updated guidelines impact their clinical practice, interaction with a thought leader is instrumental in providing the expert guidance they need.
Throughout history, medical literature has been one of the primary methods by which HCPs receive updated information regarding their field. Beyond providing researchers and medical professionals with an avenue to disseminate complex medical information to a broad, international audience, journal publications boast two major benefits: 1) the respect given to long-standing publications and the weight of their endorsement, and 2) the peer-review process. Because data published in a journal have undergone the rigorous peer-review process, the reader can be confident in the accuracy and quality of the research. Finally, through review articles and journal supplements, top thought leaders are able to highlight the most recent and clinically relevant data, often putting it into context in the larger field and providing expert opinion on how to incorporate updated information into daily practice.
Attendance at a live meeting is still a major way HCPs stay up to date, whether they attend a large medical society meeting like the America Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting or European Society for Medical Oncology Congress, or a smaller, more intimate meeting series in their own town. These meetings provide an environment in which experts can share the most recent breakthroughs in treatment in a highly focused atmosphere. Free from the distractions of home or the clinic, HCPs are able to prioritize their own learning and absorb the most recent information, which they may later bring home to their colleagues. Beyond the focused educational atmosphere of live meetings, there is an important social aspect. As discussed above, peer-to-peer interactions and interactions with thought leaders are both important strategies HCPs are using to stay updated in their field. No place is better for such interactions than a live meeting, where HCPs interested in a single topic are gathered together with experts to discuss breaking data, clinical challenges, and future directions for patient care.
A major change in clinical practice in the past decade is the incorporation of decision-support tools into many practices. These tools may take the form of treatment algorithms published as part of national or institutional guidelines, computer simulations that allow HCPs to examine specific treatment scenarios, and information related to specific diseases and treatments that provide important background knowledge to help guide the decision-making process. According to the government office of Health Information Technology, use of decision-support tools is associated with a number of important benefits. These include increased quality of care, avoidance of errors, early detection of adverse events, and improved efficiency and patient satisfaction. These also form an important part of HCP education, as decision-support tools can provide contextually relevant examples of when and how to apply new information, tools, and techniques to patient care. Decision-support tools have become a standard part of clinical practice for many HCPs and their use will only grow over time.
Independent Medical Education
Finally, the number one way HCPs stay up to date on latest developments in their field is by adopting a strategy of continuous learning. For many HCPs, participation in continuing medical education activities begins as a method to fulfill Maintenance of Certification (MOC) requirements, but evolves into the primary method used to remain updated on their field. The benefits of continuous learning are clear: 1) it filters through the abundance of data released each day, week, month, and year to highlight the most important updates that will impact clinical practice; 2) it provides expert opinions and interpretations on these updates; and 3) it is constantly available, throughout the year, in multiple formats that suit each individual learner. The best strategy to remain updated on recent developments in medicine is to make learning a regular activity, rather than limiting it to once or twice a year. In this way, accurate, focused, and relevant continuous learning activities provide the best and most popular method for HCPs to remain updated in their field.