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Stanford medical residents launch iPhone app to help physicians keep current on research

As evidence-based medicine takes a greater foothold, medical residents and physicians are tasked with the seemingly constant challenge of staying up to date on the latest treatments and drugs. To help their colleagues keep current on medical advancements, Stanford medical residents Dave Iberri, MD, and Manuel Lam, MD, introduced a new medical app that features physician-written summaries of landmark clinical trials.

Lam, a third-year resident with an undergraduate degree in computer science, and Iberri, a second-year resident and an experienced web developer, carved out time from their busy clinical schedules to develop the recently released Journal Club for iPhone (link to iTunes store).

Below Iberri, a second-year medical resident, discusses the motivation for creating the app and how the Stanford medical center community helped shape the final product.

What spurred the creation of this product?

As medical trainees, we furiously jotted down medical acronyms in our notebooks hoping to read these articles on post-call days. But early on we realize that wading through the sea of medicine journals can be overwhelming, if not downright impossible. In the midst of our resident schedules, how can we digest all this content? Which articles should be at the top of our reading list? Passionate about medical education, Manny and I wanted to solve this problem. We sought to put answers at the clinician's fingertips, immediately accessible at the point of care. Since smartphones, and the iPhone in particular, are revolutionizing the way medicine in practiced, deciding to design an iPhone app was a no-brainer. Thus the Journal Club. Written by physicians, these article summaries are distilled into bite-size morsels that clinicians can digest quickly. Think of it as CliffsNotes for medical research.

What role did students, residents, fellows, attendings, nurses and physician's assistants play in helping you develop and test the app?

Initially, content development involved asking Stanford fellows and attendings to list the top landmark trials in their respective sub-specialties. This was a springboard to our initial database of summaries.

Then, we invited clinicians of all levels of training to join the writing process, because we wanted our summaries to be collaboratively written and peer-reviewed by our users. With Tim Plante, MD, a medicine resident at Georgetown University, we launched a website called Wiki Journal Club, which is built on the familiar wiki platform popularized by Wikipedia. Wiki Journal Club makes it easy to collaborate.

This collaborative content creation gave way to a similar process when designing the app. While it was just one of us who coded the app, both of us designed, worked out kinks and had dozens of testers help with refining the app. We beta-tested with a handful of clinicians and non-clinicians and these great folks submitted feature requests, bug reports and suggestions about the interface and usability. We listened to our users, studied their interactions with the app's interface and used that data to create an app with lots of content that's intuitively organized and easily accessed.

Even after the app's release in April, user feedback continues to be a valuable part of content and product updates. We've also listened carefully to users who have left reviews on the iTunes App Store. As an example, a recent review prompted us to add the SADHART and CATIE trials, which are well known in psychiatry.

Previously: School of Medicine alumni association partners with Doximity to test first-of-its-kind smartphone app, Stanford-developed iPARS app available for download, Mercury News looks at how clinicians are using medical apps and Study finds more doctors are using smartphones
Photo courtesy of Dave Iberri

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