20 Top Websites for Docs

June 11, 2007
MDNG Primary Care, June 2007, Volume 9, Issue 6

The Internet is a seemingly endless source of medical information. With a couple of mouse clicks, we can easily access useful resources, such as specialty medical websites, PDA downloads, online...

The Internet is a seemingly endless source of medical information.With a couple of mouse clicks, we can easily access useful resources, such as specialty medical websites, PDA downloads, online CME courses, drug databases, literature reviews, and more. We can even download educational podcasts to listen to while driving to work. With so much high-quality information available, deciding where to begin your search can be a challenge.

Not to worry: we've compiled 20 of the best social media sites, blogs and commentary, podcast collections, PDA downloads, clinical information collections, and medical websites. Use these sites to stay up-to-date with the latest news, information, and opinions in your specialty.

Social Media for Doctors (and Doctors-to-Be)

Let's face it, being a doctor can be very lonely sometimes. We are often faced with difficult decisions -- and little time in which to make them. Our days are long and stressful, with few opportunities to actually sit down and talk with colleagues. Often the civilians around us are tired of our same old complaints or they just don't "get it" because they aren't living it. Online forums for doctors provide the perfect solution, especially for physicians in solo practice. These forums provide a place where doctors can go to talk to other doctors about their workload and clinical cases, or just socialize with like-minded colleagues. Here are some of the best:

Sermo

Sermo -- which means "conversation" in Latin -- is accessible at no cost to all physicians in the US. Growing at a rate of more than 700 physicians per week, Sermo has become the go-to destination for physicians nationwide to share observations from their practices and exchange medical insights as they are happening. Founded by Dr. Daniel Palestrant, Sermo currently claims more than 15,000 members representing a wide spectrum of medical specialties.

In order to sign on to Sermo, you must be an MD or DO. A clever registration process verifies your license and DEA number, and thereby your status as a physician. You can post on any topic and receive feedback within minutes any time of the day or night. One member says "Oh, it's so much fun, it feels like sitting in a physician's lounge." You can find doctors discussing the impact Sermo has had on their practices. (You'll have to register with Sermo before you can access the discussion forum). Here is a particularly touching thread written by a doctor who was feeling burnt out and in need of some support.

The Student Doctor Network

The Student Doctor Network describes itself as an independent community of students, advisors, educators, and practicing doctors. Their membership extends from students to practitioners in every field of healthcare, from allopathic to veterinary medicine. I wish something like this had existed when I was a student or resident. The discussions range from students talking about which schools have the best match statistics, to medical students talking about what to expect during their clinical rotations, to the best clinical rotations around the country for their "open" choices. There are forums for physicians with MD/PhDs, as well as forums devoted to various medical subspecialties. The boards are free from spam and arguments and feature not only invaluable conversation, but also a level of warmth rarely found on discussion boards. Although this website was chosen for its forums, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it offers many other features, such as application help, discussions with doctors, podcasts, and much more. I really can't say enough about how impressed I am with this website.

Within3

Within3 is an Internet-based social network for physicians and researchers to exchange information based on best practices and knowledge related to the diagnosis and treatment of illness. However, you can only gain access by invitation from another Within3 member. Physicians invite their trusted colleagues, who in turn can invite other highly regarded peers, expanding the network of respected medical professionals into an international alliance. Within3 provides physicians with credible and trusted information from their peers, and also offers a reliable vehicle for referrals. Although Within3 does not offer any type of discussion area or forum, it does provide a means of posting your research or stating your accomplishments and contacting colleagues privately.

Blogs, Blog Aggregators, and Commentary

The truth is that there are thousands of blogs out there, with thousands more created every day, which makes it virtually impossible to pick a "best" blog. That being said, there are a few that stand out, not only for their content, but also for how easy they make it for you to find other blogs.

Medpundit

One such blog is Medpundit. It has that perfect combination of medical news, links to current journals, quotes that make you think, humor, and realism. In addition, Medpundit also links to many other blogs, all of which I would have included in this article had it been titled the "200 Best." There is so much valuable insight and information on Medpundit you really need to go visit it for yourself.

iHealthBeat

Although technically it's not a blog, the California HealthCare Foundation's iHealthBeat offers regularly updated healthcare news supplemented by a "Commentary" section that features some of healthcare's brightest minds offering knowledgeable opinions and insights on the latest developments in healthcare information technology. Many bloggers regularly link to the news and articles posted by iHealthBeat.

Trusted.MD

Trusted.MD lists dozens of blogs with their titles, authors, URLs, and a brief description. In terms of access to blogs, it's better than being a kid in a candy store. The "Networking" features allow you to comment on or view full-text articles, and find out "What's New" and "What's Hot" in the online medical world. The ability to sort the blog listings by author, title, or URL makes searching and organizing a cinch.

Scott Shreeve, MD

The last blog belongs to Dr. Scott Shreeve. As Shreeve states on his homepage, "my professional objectives are the design, development, and distribution of healthcare technologies that enhance patient safety, increase clinical efficiency, and improve overall quality of care." He states that he began writing because he saw an exceptional need to help people understand that there is a massive reform movement underfoot with regards to the actual delivery of healthcare--what he has termed "Health 2.0." His definition not only includes the enabling technology (Internet tools, social networking, mash-ups, etc) but also the laser focus on delivering healthcare value. Coming from an open source software background, his orientation has always been around collective intelligence, collaboration, transparency, and meritocracy (outcomes). He says it is great to see these principles being applied now to healthcare.

Podcast Collections

Wikipedia defines a podcast as "a digital media file, or a series of such files, that is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and personal computers. A podcast is a specific type of webcast which, like "radio," can mean either the content itself or the method by which it is syndicated-- a podcast is a collection of files (usually audio and video) residing at a unique Web feed address. People can "subscribe" to this feed by submitting the feed address to an aggregator. When new "episodes" become available in the podcast they will be automatically downloaded to that user's computer. Unlike radio or streaming content on the Web, podcasts are not real-time. There is no live broadcast of content, the material is pre-recorded and users can check out the material at their leisure, offline."

Choosing the best podcast is so subjective. You may prefer the New England Journal of Medicines weekly update or perhaps Johns Hopkins Medicine Weekly Health News. This is why the best solution for recommending podcasts includes sites that either list many choices or let you search a large database.

Podcast Blaster

PodcastBlaster tracks more than 34,000 podcasts, totaling more than 577,000 episodes (with more added daily) under a screaming headline of "The future of podcasting is here!" In addition to offering a massive podcast directory, the site provides the tools to create your own podcasts and a free RSS feed generator.

New Media Medicine Blog

Physician blogger Chris Paton has collected the URLs of some of the top podcasts on the Internet, divided into several categories, including "General Medicine," "Science Journals," "Anesthesiology," "Rheumatology," "Critical Care Medicine," and other specialties.

A surprising source of podcasts is YouTube. You can find everything from lessons on heart sounds, lectures from medical school classes, and individual physician lectures on their own current research. You can also find residency recruitment videos made by residency programs, recordings of heart murmurs, and lung sounds. Who knew a free, popular video sharing site that includes everything from Saturday Night Live skits to home movie clips could actually prove to be so useful and informative for healthcare professionals?

PDA Downloads

Given that a survey on our website indicated that 49% of you selected the PDA (personal digital assistant) as your "can't live without" device of choice, let's take a look at some of the best places online to download PDA software.

Skyscape CME 360

A newcomer to the PDA download offerings has become one of my favorites. It's called Skyscape CME 360. 360 is a program that delivers CME activities right to your mobile device (other platforms are also supported, including laptops, tablet PCs, and desktop PCs) when you synch with the Skyscape service. The activities consist of short articles followed by a couple of questions. After you answer the questions, the completed activities are transmitted back to Skyscape during synchronization. Completing an activity generates a formal certificate to document the credit(s) earned. Certificates are stored in an online vault that is part of the user's "My Account" area on the Skyscape website.

Mobile MerckMedicus

Another good source of PDA downloads is Mobile MerckMedicus. Subscribers can access The Merck Manual, Professional Edition; the Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests; MEDLINE journal abstracts; decision support tools; treatment guidelines; and other valuable tools and resources. The Mobile MerckMedicus website also provides links to online PDA product catalogs, an article from the American Academy of Family Practice that offers guidance on buying a PDA, information about how to wirelessly access MerckMedicus, and more.

pdaMD.com

This website offers one of the largest collections of downloadable healthcare-related PDA software you'll find online. Click on "Products" at the top of the main page, and then click on "Software" to view a directory of high-quality PDA downloads. You can search for specific products and also view a list of the site's most popular programs and applications. Products are also organized by vendor, medical specialty, and category (coding/billing, drug guides, reference, etc). You can also buy hardware and accessories at this site and read product reviews, news, and other useful articles.

PDA Cortex

PDA Cortex offers programs and applications for nurses and physicians alike. Go to access a collection of more than 40 free software downloads (the Pocket PC software page also offers about a dozen free downloads). From the homepage, you can read features and reviews and link to software by OS type (Palm and Pocket PC). You can also search by software vendor and specialty.

eAbstracts/Clinical Info

MedStream 360

MedStream 360 from Skyscape works much like CME 360. After you download the appropriate software and enter a few key words, it delivers journal abstracts, medical news, and research studies right to your PDA. The information in Medstream becomes part of your overall Skyscape service, "smartLinking" with information from all other Skyscape resources on your mobile device. Medstream is available free of charge and includes Medline 360 (PubMed), CDC spotlights, MedWatch, and "Preventing Chronic Disease." Fee-based subscription options include ACP Journal club; infoPOEMS (Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters), a service for which editors pick the best from more than 1,200 studies monthly; a medical letter on drugs and therapeutics, Medical Letter Treatment Guidelines; and Drug News Weekly. Medstream 360 is an easy way to get your abstracts and stay current on the latest news and research in your field.

Journal Review

I originally learned about Journal Review from its founder, dermatologist Dr. Jeff rey Ellis. It provides eAbstracts with a twist. Journal Review is self-described as "an online forum dedicated to the medical literature." You can use the site to search for abstracts via a PubMed query or click on your specialty to read recent reviews and articles. Essentially an online journal club with free membership, JournalReview.org is designed to improve communication among physicians and scientists and foster comments and criticism about published scientific research. The goal is to promote better understanding and interpretation of medical literature.

Websites

There are literally thousands of websites for healthcare professionals online, with more created every day. Below youll find profiles of four that offer information and resources you can definitely use in everyday practice.

ACP Medicine

ACP Medicine Online "the online version of the well-known medical textbook ACP Medicine, endorsed by the American College of Physicians" offers easy (if a bit pricey) access to the complete contents of this valuable resource. Content is written and continually updated by a team of the nation's foremost primary care physicians, undergoes a rigorous peer-review process, and adheres to evidence-based standards. Content is organized into 16 specialty areas, including "Interdisciplinary Medicine," "Oncology," and "Women's Health." Subscribers can also sign up to receive What's New in ACP Medicine, a free monthly eNewsletter that "helps readers stay abreast of key developments." Also check out Best Dx/Best Rx, a free tool for your PDA designed to "fast access to expert guidance at the point of care."

Together Rx Access

There are quite a few online resources for physicians looking to help their patients who can't afford medications. One of the best is Together Rx Access, which offers 25-40% off of more than 300 prescription and generic products. There are no fees for this program, and patients can apply online. Eligibility is limited to patients who are not eligible for Medicare, have no prescription drug coverage of any kind, meet certain household income limits (see online for details), and are legal residents of the US or Puerto Rico.

Cardiosource

This site offers videos of interesting discussions on relevant cardiology topics. There is a lot of information available here, as well: CME courses, a meeting calendar, articles on key issues in cardiology, high-quality patient education materials, mobile resources, tools for your practice, and more. This site also offers journal searches, FDA alerts, clinical guidelines, CME for nurses, a self-assessment area, and "Conversations with Experts" that broadcast videos of experts discussing various aspects of cardiology. The number of topics covered at Cardiosource is overwhelming!

UpToDate.com

UpToDate is "specifically designed to answer the clinical questions that arise in daily practice and to do so quickly and easily," so that the information can be used "right at the point of care."UpToDate's physician editors and authors review and update content on a continuous basis; a new, peer-reviewed version is issued every four months. UpToDate summarizes published evidence and makes specific recommendations for patient care. And so, now you're equipped with 20 excellent resources for your practice. The best thing is that these represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to valuable online medical information and content. Don't worry; there's no reason to feel overwhelmed. Start with these, and then add more to your "Favorites" folder as you discover them (blogs are especially good sources for learning about new websites!). Don't forget to check out the doctor forums as well.

And best of all, look for me on Sermo!