Understanding and being able to critically appraise a research paper is one of the fundamental skills of a doctor.
Doctors are often presented with large quantities of information and it can be challenging to assess the key details of an extensive research paper.
This is where typical journal clubs come in, whereby groups of healthcare professionals can regularly meet and discuss papers and bring out the salient points.
An online initiative called Wiki Journal Club was established by physicians as an open, user-reviewed collection of summaries of medical literature. Its purpose is to put summaries of clinical trials at the disposal of clinicians on the front-lines who are making day-to-day decisions impacting patient care.
It is a collaborative effort and the team behind this have recently released an iPhone app, Journal Club.
The idea behind Journal Club is clever as it aims to bring physicians together to improve the transfer of information of key clinical trials to end users. The devlopers of this app note:
In medicine, evidence is the paradigm. It’s important to understand the evidence-based trials which support our clinical practice. Of course, its difficult to be reading every single journal article in NEJM, Lancet, BMJ, JACC thoroughly. We sought to create an app that summarizes the most seminal articles into morsels that clinicians can digest quickly and focus primarily on what is important–which is taking care of patients.
Launching the app presents the user with four main tabs and and additional section.
The app contains a database which reflects all the data on Wiki Journal Club. This information can be manually updated to ensure that you always have the most up to date information on your device. Clinical trials are listed by name with a helpful subtitle explaining what the trial was aiming to do and the year. Alternatively, users can browse by date and all the trials are arranged in chronological order. Similarly, trials can be arranged by specialty or by disease.
Finding a trial was relatively straightforward although a search function would have made this easier. Currently there are not that many trials stored (more on that later) and as such, the method of locating a trial currently in place were more than adequate.
Tapping on a trial brings the user to the key information related to that trial. This is a concise summary with all the major features required to understand the trial, how it was carried out, how successful it was and outcomes. The writers for Wiki Journal Club have done an impressive job condensing large research papers into brief summaries without losing too much critical detail.
There is an option to export the page you are reading via email or to send feedback to the app makers. Tapping more info brings the user to a page with the reference for the original research article and includes options to view it via PubMed, PDF, Full Text or on the main Wiki Journal Club website.
My main concern with Journal Club as an app is not to do with the app itself or even the content that it contains. It is to do with the limited number of research papers which have been collated and analysed by Wiki Journal Club.
There is currently a good number of cardiology papers; however, there are only two in surgery! At the time of review, there were only 65 papers stored in the database for the whole field of medicine. Journal Club is an excellent resource if the trial you want information on is stored in its database; however, if it is not, then this presents a major dilemma.
- Concise summaries with each paper
- Good user interface allowing information to be found easily
- Low number of research papers overall
- No search function
- Would be nice if Journal Club automatically ‘phoned home’ to update itself.
- Journal Club is a good app with an excellent premise
- The main issue facing its utility and acceptance as a mainstream app is the number of articles included
- As Wiki Journal Club grows, the usefulness of the associated app will also grow
- There is a need for apps like this to help summarize complex research papers for doctors on the frontline