There’s a challenge facing the medical profession in 2012, and for once it isn’t the gaps in our knowledge that’s the problem. The issue is that for almost 300 years we have been undertaking more medical studies and producing more results, articles and journals than is really practical or useful. While much of the information is sound, there is often simply too much of it for medical trainees to wade through, with the result that their access to and use of the best and most relevant information can suffer.
In 1992, Dr Kenneth A Arndt undertook a study of his own to determine whether or not this ‘information excess’, as he called it, was having an adverse effect on trainee dermatologists with regards to their reading habits and use of information. Arndt discovered that ‘thirty-four thousand references from 4000 journals are added each month to the National Library of Medicine MEDLINE database’ and that ‘most scientific articles that are published are never cited’. Dr Arndt himself stated that the number of medical studies published was ‘growing at an exponential rate’, so now bear in mind that his figures were calculated some twenty years ago, before the birth of the internet; it’s not difficult to see the scope of the problem facing medical trainees, is it?
So, is all of this excess information necessarily a bad thing for the world of medicine? Admittedly, the proverbial needle in a haystack springs to mind, as it seems that medical trainees are now required to work their way through unprecedented quantities of data in order to turn up articles and research that are actually relevant to their studies, and the amount of material to be searched is increasing all the time. Arndt seemed to think that a radical solution was necessary if we were going to change matters for the better; ‘decreasing the number of new publications, melding journals already present into smaller numbers of publications rather than instituting new journals, altering the “publish-or-perish” rules, and writing more comprehensive articles rather than multiple small contributions’ would all make a big difference, according to Dr Arndt.
However, we don’t necessarily agree that less is more in this instance. Scholarly articles, clinical trials and medical studies all work to help increase our knowledge of the human body and of the best medical practices, and we feel that it would be foolish not to encourage a research culture in 21st century Britain. However, we do agree that such a vast quantity of information, inefficiently displayed and organised, does represent a significant stumbling block for medical trainees, and the ways in which supporting data for studies and trials is collated and processed can represent a significant timesink without effective data processing capabilities. It isn’t the quantity of the data that is the problem, instead it is simply the way in which it is stored, processed and made available to students. By using automated data capture services and integrating a new information portal utilising intelligent search terms, trainees, students and professionals alike would be granted unprecedented access to the information they require without having to wade through lots of useless or irrelevant material beforehand.
We’ve come a long way since Arndt first grappled with the big data issues facing modern medicine, and fortunately in that time the solutions have evolved to outweigh the problems themselves. Take a look at some of our data capture solutions and see how we could help you solve your big data problems, too.