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From mid-July all health professionals working in the NHS will have free access to the Map of Medicine (www.mapofmedicine.com), an online knowledge resource aimed at facilitating good clinical practice.
The map gives visual pathways through the assessment, investigation, and primary and secondary care management of some 370 common symptoms and conditions.
The map was pioneered by clinicians in two London teaching hospitals and is already available in Wales and most regions in the north and south of England. The software is owned by Informa, a UK company whose core business is scientific publishing, and its national roll out is being funded through the NHS Connecting for Health programme.
The designers aimed to base their advice on a synthesis of best evidence, latest guidelines, and recommendations from a range of well recognised international sources, including the Cochrane Library and BMJ Clinical Evidence (www.clinicalevidence.com).
At a meeting in London last week to demonstrate the map, Mike Stein, chief medical officer at Informa, emphasised that its aim is to help health professionals improve the quality of their practice.
“Health care has become fragmented, specialised, and bureaucratised,” Dr Stein said, “And too many encounters with patients result in unintentional harm.”
Doctors are deluged with information and face a daunting task keeping up to date. The map gives them an easy to use, evidence based guide designed for use at the point of care. The fact that this is a shared tool to which all members of the clinical and managerial team have access should, Dr Stein underlined, help promote more “joined up” care.
The strength of the evidence underpinning the map's recommendations is, those at the meeting were told, made explicit and takes into account the recommendations made by NICE.
The map's strength, Informa says, is that it can be modified to inform and take account of local priorities. It also has potential as a learning tool for health professionals and shared decision making with patients. Informa has committed to updating its content annually and is already exploring its potential beyond the NHS. Pilot projects are underway in Sweden, Canada, and Australia.
Whether the map will deliver on its promise is yet to be seen. Some subjects are covered in more detail than others, and formal evaluations from the pilot projects have yet to be published. There is, however, a clear acknowledgement and commitment from Informa to make the map a dynamic, evolving knowledge tool.
“Feedback from our pilot schemes has been very encouraging,” said Katel Patel, Informa's information officer. “The map has clearly been a catalyst for getting everyone involved in patient care together, exposing how individual and local practice compares with national “benchmarks,” and facilitating agreement on how to best to reconfigure services. We don't claim the map is a magic bullet, but we do believe that by stimulating and informing dialogue around shared protocols it certainly has the potential to improve the quality of patient care.”