Need a summary of a landmark journal article? There’s an app for that.
Manuel Lam ’04 MMS’09 MD’09 recalls the endless clinical trials his attending physicians referenced during rounds when he was a resident at Stanford. “AFFIRM, ACCORD—we would try to jot down all the acronyms to look up later, but there were just so many,” he says.
Now residents can pull out their phones and consult an app, Journal Club, when their attending mentions an unknown trial. Journal Club is the result of collaboration among Lam and colleagues David Iberri, MD, of Stanford and Timothy Plant, MD, of Johns Hopkins.
The app focuses on the top articles in medicine, summarizing the main points and outcomes. Written by physicians, these summaries are designed to be easily read and understood quickly. “Think of it as CliffsNotes for medical research,” Lam says.
Authors and editors are recruited directly though wikijournalclub.org, an independent, online journal club built upon MediaWiki, the open-source software engine that powers Wikipedia. The wiki software allows for collaborative editing of the website’s pages. From this site, important summaries are selected for inclusion in the read-only app.
Journal Club first hit the Apple App Store in April 2012. It boasted 100 articles just months after its debut; three years later that number has more than doubled.
Lam, who concentrated in computer science as a PLME, is one of the curators of Journal Club, selecting which summaries on the website should be included in the app. In his day job, he’s an internist at the Facebook Health Center in Menlo Park, CA, and hospitalist for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation at Stanford Hospital. Some of the residents there use Journal Club, he says: “It brings smiles to our faces when we hear residents and interns talking about Journal Club.”
Both the app and website have grown quickly—since the Android app debuted in March 2013, downloads and revenue have almost tripled, the iPhone app has grown 72 percent, and the website is nearing 1 million views. The app sells for $4.99.
“It’s definitely an upward trajectory,” Lam says. “Everyone assumes that doctors know everything about everything. That’s not true. But now, in one minute, you can whip out your phone, access the article, and absorb the major details.”