Monday, October 19, 2009

NEJM does it again!

So, I'm browsing, killing time (on vacation, I might add) and decide to see what's doing on the NEJM website. I get there and the top story on the website is this: Interactive Medical Case- A Bloody Mystery.

Wait... interactive?? So I click the link and guess what? This is FABULOUS! There is a reason why the NEJM is considered the preeminent medical journal and innovations like this are it. This is a case, presented in pieces (the usual horrible puns apply) with frequent breaks where you "order" lab tests and "create" a differential diagnosis then reassess and "order" more tests/treatments. There are charts, tables, MOVIES, images. Even better, this isn't the "one correct answer" format. It's the "which 5 of these 15 potential diagnoses could this patient have?" There also isn't any sort of giant ERROR buzzer, either. You choose your answers, the green checks and red "x"-es appear and you read an explanation of the answer.

Did I mention the excellent explanations? Sometimes a little too helpful before you click on your answers, but that's what learning is about, right?

NEJM is famous for its long-established "Case Records of the Massacchuttes General Hospital" in which docs get to read a round-table discussion of a complicated case with a number of experts weighing in. Very valuable -- med students everywhere are told to read it -- but its dry and complicated as hell to follow. They literally transcribe the round-table discussion verbatim. I feel that this new interactive case format accomplishes the same goal but I actually learn becuase I'm participating and actually care (I admit it... I don't like to get questions wrong).

Overall, two thumbs up.

While I'm at it, I'm going to put in a one-line plug for the NEJM "Image Challenge" on the website. This shows pictures of pathology -- anything from photographs, radiology, microscopy, gel electrophoresis...etc. You pick the answer from the multiple choice on the side and get told right/wrong. Quick, visual recognition, great for keeping your brain plugged in on overnight where you have to stay awake but don't have the energy for more than a mouse-click.

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