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Secrets to keeping up with new clinical research


It’s tough for managed care executives to keep up with clinical research, evidence, and studies on an ongoing basis. Here are some tips.



The good news: Clinical research is advancing medicine every day, and new evidence is showing the path to better, more effective tests and treatments for acute illnesses, chronic diseases, and maintaining wellness.

The bad news: It’s tough to keep up with all this information on an ongoing basis. Here’s insight from the physician-editors of a clinical reference resource-charged with daily reviews of clinical literature – on how managed care executives can get the highlights.




Identify trusted information sources relevant to your patient populations

Identify and use trusted resources that will summarize the studies and guidelines accurately. Also, identify the studies and guidelines that matter to your setting and circumstances, and present information in ways that you can use directly.

This vetting process might sound arduous, but the alternative involves a much bigger mountain to climb: Developing your own custom service for monitoring studies and guidelines.



Tune your preferences

Using a clinical information resource can keep you informed of the most important new evidence and guidelines as they are published. Just as consumers can set Google News to show only the topics relevant to them from their preferred news outlets, managed care leadership can set the criteria for clinical information feeds to their desired categories. Set email alerts to notify you when new evidence is discovered that is likely to change practice in your organization. Links will take you to the pertinent topic where the new data is synthesized with current information.




Use the "so what?" test

Once you identify a trusted source and are receiving daily updates for clinical evidence findings that potentially affect your organization, scan the titles. If an article or two looks relevant, ask yourself the following questions before consulting your trusted clinicians for closer scrutiny, or even reading the article: Is this study appropriate for my patient population? If the answer is “no,” then do not read it. If the answer is “yes,” ask yourself, if the study results would lead you to change what you are doing in that area. If the answer is “no,” do not read it and move to the next title.



Take small bites

Avoid reading any clinical journal cover-to-cover-it’s too overwhelming, not very useful, and most of the content will not be retained. Instead, subscribe to a core set of trusted journal abstracts, blogs and podcasts you can access on your computer and mobile device. Save key articles to read later.



Consult medical leadership before adopting a guideline

Achieve buy-in within your organization before implementing any change. Before that can happen, guidelines or any practice changes should be considered for both validity and relevance. How trustworthy is the evidence behind the proposed change? How appropriate do the expected results match your patient population? Seek external sources that help assess and report the validity of the concepts. But more importantly, let medical leadership to determine its relevance; if the approach is not locally relevant you can do more harm than good making the change.



Question everything

If something does not seem right, question its source and reliability. Your job is not to know everything, but to learn how to find, evaluate and use information, and flag the items that seem most relevant to your patient base with clinical leadership who can help sort out what evidence can be applied to your real-life care paths to enhance care quality, make care more convenient and less invasive for patients, and take unnecessary costs out of the process.

Brian S. Alper, MD, MSPH, FAAFP, is founder of DynaMed and vice president of EBM Research & Development, Quality and Standards.





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