As a busy doctor, it can be difficult to juggle the competing demands of daily practice, personal life and keeping current with the medical literature.

Every day there are many new articles published, and the rate of expansion is increasing every year.

Keeping up-to-date is hard ~ (every doctor, ever)

So, how does a busy physician ensure they are aware of the latest research and important developments in their field? They make the medical literature come to them by leveraging modern technologies.

Make the medical literature come to you

How do they do it? By using the power of the internet, and understanding that journals and professional bodies have all by now established an online presence in some form (or many).

Academic journals and societies publish their material in several ways:

  • Email digests
  • RSS Feeds
  • Podcasts

It is actually quite easy to access these resources if you know where to look.

Let’s start by examining the website of one of the pre-eminent respiratory journals, CHEST.

Medical Literature

It should be obvious immediately that one of the ways CHEST packages its content is via podcasts. We’ll come back to podcasts soon.

For the physician who isn’t technically capable, an email digest is probably easier to come to terms with than a podcast subscription (although it really shouldn’t be!). By clicking through to the current issue, we should be able to find a variety of ways to subscribe to the CHEST content. Click the ‘Current Issue’ tab and you’ll see the following:

Medical Literature

See the ‘Get Email Alerts’ link? Over on the right. Click it, and you can sign up to have a table of contents sent to your email address every time CHEST publishes a new issue. The same goes for ‘Online First’ articles which you can obtain as a separate email TOC by clicking on the ‘Online First’ tab and following the same procedure.

What about the tech-savvy physician?

The doctor who knows her way around a feed reader might want to avoid using their email and have the journal tell them when there is new material published. Feed readers are software that collect real-time notifications of updated internet content using the RSS protocol. Many websites publish a ‘feed’ of their new material that allows readers to be notified of new content rather than having to come to the website to check for anything new themselves.

If you already use an RSS reader service, this explanation is almost certainly redundant. If you want to learn more about starting with RSS feeds and have the information from your favourite websites automatically sent to your reader any time it is published, have a read of this Digital Trends article.

Signing up for the RSS feed is as simple as clicking on the RSS button, right next to the ‘Get Email Alerts’ link you clicked on before, and then copy the feed URL into your feed software of choice.

Didn’t you say something about Podcasts?

Yes, yes I did.

Podcasts are a busy doctor’s best friend. An audio recording just like a radio show you can listen to whenever it suits, podcasts are available for any and every topic imaginable. The real beauty of podcasts is that – much like audiobooks – they allow you to consume content while you are doing other things.

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How much time do you spend commuting each week? I spend hours in the car driving to and from work, and now that I listen to podcasts I learn new things in the time that I would otherwise waste listening to the radio and wishing the traffic was better. If you ride the train or bus you can obviously still listen to your favourite academic journal’s latest podcast episode – just don’t forget the headphones!

The larger professional organisations and journals all have podcasts nowadays, and signing up is easy once you have your podcast software installed. If you are using an iPhone you will almost certainly be familiar with iTunes which has a large Podcasts section. There is any number of Podcast apps available for both Android and iOS devices. Some have a web interface as well, just like my preferred software Pocket Casts.

Finding podcasts

Once you have an account, finding and adding new podcasts is simple. Locate the section that allows subscription to a new podcast. Search for the name of the journal or professional body you hope will have a podcast. Click to subscribe and you’re done.

What if the journal doesn’t have a podcast listed in your podcast software? It might be that you’re the first smart doctor to sign up using that software. If we go back to the CHEST journal front page we can click the ‘Podcasts’ tab to open their podcast page. The CHEST page provides a link to the iTunes page where you can subscribe (as well as embedded players that allow you to listen from your browser). If you choose to subscribe, you don’t have to go the CHEST Podcasts page to find new content: your podcast software will notify you of new content as it becomes available.


The days of a new edition of a print journal arriving in your mail are fading fast: there are many journals that are moving to an ‘online only’ format as a way to keep costs low and provide added features like audio and video summaries. Keeping up with the medical literature is hard enough as it is; why don’t you make it easier on yourself?


Featured Image By Vmenkov (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons