Archive for “August, 2013”

Insights from Prof. Niklaus Friederich

Prof. Niklaus Friederich
As an Advisory Board Member of Insights Orthopedics since the early beginnings on, Prof. Niklaus Friederich has always been an advocator of accessing medical information in a new and innovative manner. He is the former head of the Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology of the Kantonsspital Bruderholz and professor of surgery at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Now he works with a team of experienced surgeons at the Orthoklinik in Dornach.

This is what he had to say about “Medical Education and Information Access in times of technological changes”.

IO: You have been in this business for so long now. Describe shortly how accessing medical and educational information now and then has changed.

Prof. Friederich: “I started my professional education at the Medical School of Bern, Switzerland, in the early ‘80s. At our library, I used a Rolodex to search for my books. Some of the books could only be borrowed for a certain period of time; others were not allowed to be taken home. So we either had to ask the librarian to copy the pages we wanted – we were not even allowed to copy the pages ourselves – or we had to sit down and hand copy the pages.

During my time at the university of San Antonio, Texas, only 5 years later, I was amazed at how technologically advanced they were in comparison to my home university. They had a computer-based book search through which I received entire results lists of books and journals that I could chose from.

Nowadays, everyone from everywhere can have access to all information. Accessing information has become much more democratic. It is not an exclusive right to specific groups in specific countries anymore. The Internet has opened up the access to medical information to a broader audience while the tablet has introduced a more elegant and easy way to access this information.

But frankly speaking, I am missing the “sensory” part of holding a book in my hands and seeing that it has been used and read by other people.”

IO: Approximately one million scientific articles are published every year! How do you deal with this complexity?

Prof. Friederich: “While in the past we were confronted with difficulties in obtaining information, the challenge we face today is that there is too much information available. So the way I find out if an article is worth talking about or not is quite simple: I pick up the phone and call a colleague, a peer or a friend who is the expert in this field. My longtime experience paired with my network of knowledgeable experts provides a solid basis to survive in this jungle of information.

Of course I understand that medical students and residents do not dispose of such a network yet in their young career. Nowadays there are much more tools at hand, especially technological tools, that help them access and evaluate information. The consequence of this democratization of information access is the rising of an imbalance between freedom of information and relevancy. So, it is becoming more important to use filters to help you sail through this growing sea of information. While specialized medical platforms, discussions groups, and apps are commonly used for shaping one’s opinion, it is important to keep in mind that having a real person to speak to can not be replaced by any virtual network or tool.

Also, the publishing business has become very competitive. Journals have to publish articles with high impact factors and high numbers of citations in order to survive. The number of articles published, and also the medium where they are published does not always reflect the importance of the theme though. For example, the laparoscopical stomach surgery has only been researched and practiced by a small number of individuals, and professors have not published many papers about it. This does not reduce the importance of this surgery though.”

IO: Tell me a little more about your medical news reading behaviour?

Prof. Friederich: “I used to read the printed editions of orthopedic journals on a regular basis and flipped through all pages in order to make sure that I would not miss out on anything. I am still a subscriber to most of the journals, but today use more newsletters with content tables, news feeds or aggregators as Insights Orthopedics in order to keep up to date. If I want to read the full text article, I use my institutional subscription to access it within the app.”

IO: What was the driving force for you to be on the Advisory Board of Medical Insights?

Prof. Friederich: “It has been an obvious trend in the orthopedic community to move away from reading classic journals and going towards using mobile apps. It also has been a trend that we needed tools at hand to help us filter relevant from irrelevant information. Insights Orthopedics responds to this trend.

I loved the idea that with Insights Orthopedics an orthopedic surgeon finally can use a platform that can narrow all available papers and articles down to the themes he is interested in. Insights Orthopedics is customized to our needs. This is why I am proud to be part of this project.”

IO: What makes Insights Orthopedics different from any other mobile information platform?

Prof. Friederich: “I use Insights Orthopedics because I have not found another tool that offers the same features. I mostly use the search engine because it enables me to show only those articles related to my specialty. But I also follow the news from the AO Foundation and EFORT and I read current publications. I really have everything orthopedic in one place.”