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Delivering A CURE for Medical Information Inaccuracy and Overload

by Joshua L. Conrad, PharmD, Director of Clinical Application Quality, Epocrates, an athenahealth company

Developing a cure for a disease is the holy grail of medical research. Imagine the excitement felt by Edward Jenner at the realization that his decades spent developing a smallpox vaccine would ultimately save millions of lives. Unfortunately, such discoveries are few and far between. For most conditions, health care providers must make do with suggesting lifestyle changes, performing risky surgical procedures, and prescribing drugs.

I am not a medical researcher. So, I will never know how it feels to discover a cure for a disease. But, as a career drug information pharmacist, I do know how it feels to provide a caregiver with that elusive answer he or she seeks for a patient who is seemingly out of options. Being able to render that service to an individual health care provider for a single patient is fulfilling; being able to provide it to over a million health care providers caring for countless patients through my work at Epocrates is life-affirming.

A comic book hero’s wise father once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” My Epocrates colleagues and I understand how many lives could potentially be affected by the clinical information we provide through Epocrates’ references, and we don’t take our responsibility lightly.

Given all the obstructions that exist when trying to do the right thing for one’s patients, we understand the importance of providing the right information, and delivering that information in the right way. The last thing clinicians need is added frustration due to medical information inaccuracy, overload, or inconsistency. This is precisely why Epocrates’ medical editors have made it their mission to provide “A CURE,” the central principle that guides us when developing and presenting the proprietary clinical content in our references. What exactly is “A CURE?”

A = Accurate
First and foremost, we ensure that Epocrates clinical content is scientifically accurate, backed by evidence and rigorous research, and based on good clinical judgment. Our medical editors include clinical pharmacists and physicians who have undergone extensive advanced training. We also maintain a Senior Clinical Board of clinicians considered to be experts in their respective fields, whom our editors can consult regarding specific clinical practices and controversies.

C = Current
The library of medical literature is growing faster than ever, making it impossible for any single clinician to keep up. Epocrates’ medical editors continually perform proactive surveillance to ensure that our clinical content remains timely and reflects current practice standards. The Food and Drug Administration, MedWatch, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, and nationally recognized guidelines are just some of the resources we routinely use to ensure that our content is up-to-date. In addition, our weekly publishing cycle allows us to pass this information to clinicians with high frequency.

U = Unbiased
We have strict policies in place that assure the absolute autonomy and authority of our medical editors. These policies have been validated by external biomedical ethics experts to ensure that clinicians who use Epocrates can trust that the content we develop is completely free from commercial influence.

R = Relevant
Epocrates content is focused on actionable information for providers in the moments of care. For example, our drug interactions are categorized and presented according to the action the clinician should take to avoid or mitigate untoward effects, rather than delivered in an arbitrary numeric scheme that offers little clinical guidance. Our extensive and discriminative processes for researching and presenting this content allows caregivers to focus on clinically significant information without having to sift through information of minimal importance.

E = Essential
The unique style with which Epocrates presents content allows us to provide the maximum amount of useful clinical information in the minimum amount of space. In addition, our extensive editorial standards provide that our content is presented in a consistent manner, so clinicians always know exactly where to look in Epocrates for any specific piece of information. Nearly half of Epocrates’ members surveyed report saving 20 minutes or more each day by using Epocrates. That extra time could translate to more patients cared for, more time with each patient, or simply a less hectic day.

While most of us will never discover a cure for a disease, we devote our lives to caring for patients afflicted by disease. Our hope is that through the A CURE principles we can help make part of the caregiving process as relevant, accurate, and seamless as possible, with a continued focus, as always, on patients’ well-being.

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