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19-12-2011 | Article

Guideline overload

One of the biggest problems medical practitioners face these days is keeping up to date with advances in the field. The volume of information doctors receive every day can be almost overwhelming. The problem is magnified for generalists, who need to keep tabs on almost every clinical discipline, and even more so for GPs, who are also dealing with all the business aspects of general practice and political initiatives.

A GP's priority is not to keep up to date but to look after patients. And yet it is vital to stay on top of developments in order to provide patients with the very best available care. So how do we manage this conundrum?

Well, it is not easy, as acknowledged by a recent report from the Medical Protection Society highlighted in the univadis GP News service(click here). According to the article, the report found that GPs are "being deluged with a new guidance document every 48 hours on average".

Many GPs will recognise the finding that "documents tended to be lengthy, with most over 30 pages and many exceeding 100 pages and even involving multiple documents". And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is also the deluge of e-mails, medical journals, letters and other communications that threatens to swamp us every day. Not only do we have to read all this information, we also need to retain it and deploy it correctly and appropriately in a clinical scenario somewhere down the line.

Of course there are now also numerous aids to help us keep abreast of developments.

But even with the availability of highly accessible and rapidly updated online resources, we need to apply another skill - information management - to use them efficiently and effectively. It can take time to drill down to the desired information, and we then need to be sure that it is trusted and verifiable. This means constantly reviewing our sources and seeking improved ones, as well as being aware of the latest technology to access new information, such as the current iPad and other tablet computers.

Clearly, the impact all this has on our role is becoming an issue that needs to be addressed in the future.

On a more positive and cheerful note, I wish all univadis users seasonal greetings and a happy and healthy New Year. See you again in 2012!

Best wishes,


Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief Univadis

By Dr Harry Brown