In light of the international impact of mobile technologies on the study and practice of medicine, Dr. Amr Jamal, director of the Medical Informatics and e-Learning Unit, conducted the workshop titled “EBM resources in the Palm of Your Hand.”
The evidence based medicine (EBM) workshop was held January 1 at King Saud University’s College of Medicine and coordinated by King Saud University’s Medical Informatics and e-Learning Unit (MIELU).
Dr. Jamal spent much of the workshop introducing students to some of the popular EBM resources available and explained how they are being used and emphasized their potential.
The proliferation of smart phones has made it imperative to educate today’s health professionals of the applications of mobile EBM resources. Smart phones are the fastest resource for medical professionals to get the most updated information necessary to support a decision how to provide the most effective care in critical situations.
An increasing number of health professionals are relying on mobile resources in dealing with spit-second medical situations, however, Dr. Jamal stressed that caution must be exercised to determine the relevance and quality of the evidence provided through mobile resources.
Dr. Jamal outlined the EBM’s 5-step process that includes: asking a clinical question; acquiring available research and evidence; appraising its quality, applying it to practice; and finally, assessing the impact of change. Applications of mobile resources were highlighted at each stage of the process along with an introduction to the applications popularly in use globally.
Dr. Jamal concluded his presentation by discussing avenues to discover new EBM applications.
The workshop was part of MIELU’s ongoing effort to enhance health programs at King Saud University by providing leadership, discovery and dissemination of knowledge in biomedical informatics, health information management and medical education technology.
Some 40,000 medical apps are now available for smartphones and tablet PCs such as iPads, among them software to monitor mood swings and assist in weight loss. U.S. scientists are even working on an app in which you cough into your iPhone it will analyze the cause, whether serious or not.
At KSU, there are 8,000 students in five medical colleges, with KSU attached to two university hospitals, King Khalid University Hospital and King AbdulAziz University Hospital. These are non-profit university healthcare organizations which provide education, patient care services, staff training and encouragement for scientific research.
Informatics is a relatively new and rapidly developing field, not only at KSU and in the two Saudi hospitals, but internationally; in fact, informatics has become a subspecialty in the field of medicine; and according to a 2011 article in OpenClinical, a medical newsletter, it was predicted within this decade 50,000 medical informatics specialists will be needed to meet the demands in medical healthcare.
A linear description of informatics is that it is a system in which medical information and knowledge are combined with technology to afford physicians a means of providing a more efficient diagnosis of a patient’s problem and a more effective and expedient treatment, and it Dr. Raza Abid, director of health informatics at Dalhousie University in eastern Canada, stresses that it does lighten the workload.
“It is humanly impossible for health professionals to have all the [necessary] information and all the knowledge about new drugs and treatments available in their medical interventions,” he said. “It is that part where health informatics becomes a support mechanism for the healthcare professional.”
His medical colleague at Dalhousie, Associate Professor Dr. Ray LeBlanc , an ophthamologist, agrees that it will shorten the paper trail for physicians, with no scribbled notes having to be deciphered .
“The average patient changes hands three or four times in an admission,” he said. “So [with informatics), instead of having a massive stack of charts, it’s about having everything right there electronically. Every one of those patients would be much safer with such a robust platform.”
Informatics, as a specialty and a benefit to medical practice, has advance a long way, and more than just more efficient and effective healthcare. It is helping in other areas including education and research. Examples of informatics medicine are 3-dimensional animation to assist in surgery, accelerating drug discovery, developing computer applications in the case of disasters or epidemics and enhancing the educational process in a variety of ways.
And, it’s just the beginning, according to experts. With every piece of information and new technology, there’s an opportunity for informatics to play a role – to create knowledge, to bridge a gap to the future in a rapidly changing world.
“I see communication the technology, in particular, and informatics on top of that as technology as a means of making a profound change in how we practice medicine,” said Dr. Brett Taylor, an associate professor in pediatrics emergency at Dalhousie.