Even within niche medical specialties the rampant proliferation of studies—from traditional, peer-reviewed data, to posters and presentation abstracts presented at medical conferences and CME events, make it virtually impossible for today’s beyond busy medical professionals to stay on top of emerging trends that could benefit their practices and their patients.
Traditional, peer-reviewed journal articles have historically been more valued in terms of reliability and validity by the medical community. The challenge here, of course, is that these studies can take a long time to achieve publication—in the meantime, today’s technology-driven nimble communication environment has already released millions of other studies and documents that inform the work of scientists. In addition to peer-reviewed studies, clinicians and medical affairs professionals have come to value poster and oral presentations, which are commonly, and in growing numbers, shared through conferences and congresses around the world.
The Proliferation of Conference Data
Over the past 60 years, poster presentations have proliferated at scientific and medical conferences according to Nicholas Rowe and Dragan Ilic, the authors of an article in The FEBS Journal, an “international peer-reviewed journal devoted to publication of high-quality papers reporting significant advances in the molecular life sciences.” At FEBS’ 1969 meeting—“the first recorded example of an international scientific poster-type display session”—105 posters were on display over four days; in 2014 that number had soared to 2098 posters over the same number of days.
That’s just at one conference — consider how much these numbers have grown in the aggregate.
Meetings presentations provide the opportunity to scientists and researchers to share information in a timely manner with medical professionals eager to learn about the next best thing for improving patient outcomes. Unfortunately, it’s simply impossible for individual clinicians and medical affairs professionals to digest all of this information—or even a small portion of it.
In addition, the interactions conference-goers do have with this information tends to be rather superficial. Rowe and Ilic mentioned a study that indicated “that only a minority of delegates visit an individual poster, and often only for social reasons.”
How Technology Can Help Tackle the Challenges of Staying Up-to-Date
Still, today’s clinicians, and their Medical Affairs partners, both benefit from and are challenged by the widespread availability of research data available to them. Access to information from around the globe, including information generated on a small-scale, is obviously a benefit. The sheer volume of that information, of course, makes it nearly impossible for practitioners to draw relevant, actionable conclusions.
In addition, issues related to “predatory data” — data disseminated by predatory publishers and predatory journals — add to the challenge of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
Technology, some might say, has contributed to the problem of information overload but technological solutions can also have a positive impact. They can provide the power to aggregate the relevant documents for further analysis and weed out such predatory sources. Such data gathering and analysis can provide a clear, strategic view and help the industry save time and money by aligning day-to-day goals with big-picture outcomes.