What’s in Your Lab Coat: Using the Tools in Your Pocket to Gather Credible Online Data
Nov 16 2018 - Russell Kohl, MD, FAAFP
Remember when a lab coat with stuffed pockets was the sign of an outstanding intern? Whether patient data cards, rounding notes, a Sanford guide, assorted “handbooks” or a myriad of instruments (like actual metal calipers for EKG interp), there was something amazing likely to be pulled out of any pocket at any time. The advent of palm pilots, and their eventual evolution to smartphones, has rendered that sight something more of an oddity these days. Today’s stuffed-pockets intern is seen more as a sign of potential disorganization and inability to leverage the electronic resources at their fingertips.
Recently I was emptying the pockets of an old lab coat and began to wonder whether modern trainees had their favorite “books” on their smartphones, so I began to ask around. While a variety of apps were quickly identified as favorites, I was a bit disturbed to hear “you can just Google anything you might need” as frequently as I did. While search engines are great tools, I was frequently met with a blank expression when I asked how the searcher knew the online data was accurate and timely. I’m sure the hard copy “handbooks” I carried were of a certain vintage that would require updating, yet I was confident that this was merely a question of edition. I also knew that these books contained the tools and knowledge I would need to be successful.
Despite my wariness of the credibility of online information, I can suggest a resource that's far nicer than anything I was able to carry in my lab coat pockets. The TMF Quality Innovation Network has developed a free antibiotic stewardship mobile-enabled webpage that serves as a hub for clinicians interested in antibiotic stewardship. From this site, you can access podcasts on topics like appropriate prescribing and physician-patient communication regarding antibiotic use. You can also access curated treatment recommendations for common conditions that may require antibiotics. Looking at diagnosis, proper antibiotic selection and duration of treatment, the mobile webpage lets you go to a trusted source to obtain the information you need to provide the most appropriate care. Likewise, you can find links to other antibiotic stewardship programs and resources, like AHRQ, the CDC or our own TMF QIN Antibiotic Stewardship Learning and Action Network.
The key to useful resources, like the stuffed pockets of long ago, is to know what you really need to carry with you in order to do a good job for your patients. The irony, of course, is that this is also what antibiotic stewardship is all about – efficiently providing the best care for your patients.
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