Medical science changes rapidly these days, and what was standard practice a week ago, can change overnight as researchers discover yet another advance. Doctors are running to keep up. For example, Dr. Lee Mitchel, the Sarasota gastroenterologist who uses the brand-new capsule endoscopy-the "camera pill" that takes pictures of the small bowel-reports that there's already been a change to the technology since he was interviewed for our May story "Amazing Breakthroughs". He's already incorporating it into his practice.
"Keeping abreast with new advances and techniques in medicine is harder today than it has ever been," says Dr. F. Scott Corbett, another Sarasota gastroenterologist. "There is more information and much less time to read about it and process it."
So how do doctors keep up? Mitchel says his specialty requires that he be recertified by the American Board of Internal Medicine every 10 years. Using medical journals and medical Web sites, "I study on weekends and until midnight on weekdays," he says.
Corbett attends annual meetings hosted by his medical specialty. He uses the Internet regularly. And, he says, he uses Sarasota Memorial Hospital's Center for Advanced Surgery where staff scans literature and manufacturers for the latest and best technology. "Consequently, Sarasota sees many techniques before even the most cosmopolitan cities have even heard of them," he says.
Sarasota internist Dr. Bernard Feinberg, says the Internet, textbooks, journals (analog and digital), teleconferencing, DVDs and CD-ROMS help doctors stay ahead. He also says Patti Reynolds, the medical librarian at Sarasota Memorial, "can provide rapid searches of multiple data bases to provide answers to any query." Nonetheless, he adds, it's an impossible, time-consuming task.
It was much easier to keep up in medical school, admits Dr. Caryn Silver, a Sarasota oncologist. She reads journals in her field, travels to conferences twice a year, uses specific Web sites and stays in touch with colleagues who are still in the academic setting.
Perhaps one of the most surprising sources for physicians is their own patients. "In this climate, the patient may hear of something before the doctor has had a chance to review it," says Corbett.
Mitchel says this is especially true when patients are faced with life and death situations. His introduction to the camera pill was through a patient who had searched the Web to help her husband who was bleeding internally. Doctors could not locate the source so she decided to do her own research and discovered the camera pill. "She asked me about it and I looked it up on the Internet and learned about it," Mitchel says. "I called the company, which provided the technology for free for two weeks."