Let’s take the common scenario that you need to research a clinical problem and the first issue might be, where would you start to look up this clinical problem and find the best solution to your query? Sometimes if you have access to a book you might want to start here but you have got to have an up to date version and a relevant but easily accessible high-quality book to look up. Or switching to the internet (and for some that might be first line as being more accessible than a relevant book) you can “Google” it, but the quality of some of the results may be variable and not always fully reliable.
So what are good, reliable and trustworthy on line medical resources? Of course, this boils down to a matter of personal opinion and everyone has their favourites, so here are just a few of mine that I think are worth sharing. I have also suggested resources that for most readers will be free of charge.
One excellent medical textbook is the Merck Manual now in its 20th edition and described by Amazon as “the world's most widely-used medical reference.” Although the book is very good value for money (currently just under £48) for what you get; the book’s content is freely and legitimately available on the web. Even better there is no need for registration and is openly and freely available; there is no catch. There are also free apps available which has the content of the book and which offer similar functionality.
Although many contributors to the Merck Manual come from North America, there are some excellent UK based resources. One of my favourites is the excellent Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS), which covers a large number of primary care topics.
Another excellent clinical support tool is BMJ Best Practice and there is also an excellent app for mobile devices and I have often used this on my iPhone. According to the website, over 30 specialties are covered and the information is well laid out, readable and very relevant to clinical practice. A quality resource like this does not come cheap and for a physician, an annual subscription is £190 per year (excluding VAT) is required. However, the good news is that this excellent resource is completely free for NHS professionals in England, Wales and Scotland. If you qualify, this is an excellent free service that can act a high quality clinical reference resource.
GP notebook will be known to some of you and it is now free to use. It is a general collection of information of high interest and relevance to a British based GP and over the years, I have found this website very useful and provides practical, clinical support.
It is sometimes easy to overlook the amazing PubMed, which is a citation database, containing over a staggering 30 million citations. It is a highly respected American based resource and is completely free to use. I have found it very helpful to locate journal articles on a specific medical topic and often you can find a review or research article that is relevant to your query. Sometimes you can access the full text directly via PubMed, but failing that a medical librarian can often obtain the article in electronic format for you. However, there may be a charge for this.
Finally, don’t forget our patients need directing to quality and trusted websites for information that is pitched at just the right level for them. For some years, I have been giving patients appropriate patient information printouts. I record the internet address of the printout within the patient record. Most patients appreciate taking away a relevant printout written for the lay person and reading it after the consultation. Feedback has been generally very good and most patients have commented how useful they have found it. Other times I simply direct them to the website to do their own research.