With new journals hatching frequently and a constant bombardment of information from multiple sources, it is getting more and more challenging to keep up to date. Many subscribers have asked for suggestions for how to keep current on advances in psychiatric practice and research. We’ve reviewed many of the offerings available, and here are some of the better ones.
Try to be systematic about your browsing by carving out an hour or two per week to review the top five or 10 journals most relevant to your specialty. For general psychiatry, such a list might include a combination of “academic” subscription journals that carry both original research and review articles, and free “throwaway” journals. My personal top five academic journals for the general adult psychiatrist are: American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Archives of General Psychiatry, New England Journal of Medicine, and Journal of the American Medical Association. All have good websites allowing you access to tables of contents and abstracts (and, if you subscribe, full content).
Throwaway journals are free because advertising fees subsidize their gratis distribution to a large mailing list of clinicians. These journals cut the following deal with drug companies: “You advertise with us, and in return we guarantee that lots of psychiatric eyes will see your ads because we will send free copies of our journal to every psychiatrist in the country.” Throwaway journals vary in their quality and degree of independence from the promotional agendas of their advertisers. The best ones provide excellent review articles and summaries of recent research—and you can’t beat the free part. In my opinion, the better throwaways are: Current Psychiatry, Psych-iatric Times, Psychiatric Annals, Clinical Psychiatry News (www.clinical psychiatry news.com) and the APA’s newspaper, Psychiatric News (free to members: www.psychnews.org).
Information digests offer to do your browsing for you. They summarize and synthesize the latest research, making judgments about which studies are likely to be of greatest interest to practicing clinicians. Most require a paid subscription, but some are free. Here’s a digest of the digests.
PubMed (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pub med) is a free search engine that indexes most journals of interest to psychiatrists and any other physician, including those published in psychological journals. What’s the difference between PubMed and Medline? PubMed is more user friendly and includes more content, so unless you grew up on Medline, I suggest relying on PubMed.
Aside from typing in search terms to find the most recent research on a given topic, you can do some fancy and very useful things with PubMed. For example, you can save your searches and direct PubMed to email you updated search results monthly, weekly, or even daily for those information addicts out there. To do this, go to the PubMed home page, and click “My NCBI” at the top right corner. You will be guided through a registration process, which is easiest to do if you have a Google account, since PubMed is linked with Google. One you register, after any search you can click “save search,” and you will be asked whether you want to email results to yourself and how often. One step fancier is to set up an RSS feed for your searches, so that updated results will be constantly fed onto your web browser’s home page—see this website for directions: http://bit.ly/9Zx1uD (and I thank Dr. Dan Gardner for this tip).
Newsletters range in price from around $80 to $200 per year. All of them are available in print and are mailed to your office, and most have online access, though the usability of these sites is highly variable. I’ve included only those newsletters focusing specifically on general psychiatry, meaning that I’ve left out some excellent general medical publications such as the Medical Letter and the Prescriber’s Letter. I’ve also omitted The Carlat Psychiatry Report because I don’t think I can be objective about my own newsletter!
Journal Watch (http://psychiatry. jwatch.org): Published by the Massachusetts Medical Society (which also publishes the New England Journal of Medicine), Journal Watch is written entirely by physicians and is a collection of summaries of key articles, with brief comments on their significance. While Journal Watch allows its editors and writers to have industry ties, very few do, and there is no detectable commercial bias in the content.
• Monthly 8-page newsletter, print and online
• $129 per year
• Up to 10 CME credits
• Banner ads appear on website
• Print edition is sometimes sponsored by drug companies
• Conflict of interest policy allows industry relationships
Psychiatry Drug Alerts (www. alertpubs.com/Psych.htm): Psychiatry Drug Alerts is similar to Journal Watch in that it is a collection of summaries of articles, though Drug Alerts offers more to psychiatrists, since the publisher also offers two other psychiatry-specific newsletters: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Alerts and Psychiatry Alerts NOS.
• Monthly 8-page newsletter
• $89 per year for newsletter alone, an additional $77 per year for 24 CME credits
• No ads
• Editors/writers have no industry ties
• The authorship of articles is not clear. We called Drug Alerts and they told us non-physicians write the stories, which are then reviewed by psychiatrists.
• Website content is delivered via pdf download only
Biological Therapies in Psychiatry (www.btpnews.com): BTP is one of the oldest psychiatric newsletters, and is edited and largely written by the esteemed Alan Gelenberg, who is also the editor in chief of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The editorial advisory board is filled with big name academics, most with many industry relationships. Articles are either summaries of recent studies or reviews synthesizing the research. I have found the BTP website search function to be unusually useful. A search using the simple term “antidepressants” brought up dozens of clinically relevant articles without including information of marginal interest. BTP is a reliable source of information, though somewhat conservative in outlook—if TCPR is the CNN of newsletters, BTP is the Fox News.
• Monthly 4-page newsletter
• $86 per year for the newsletter alone, an additional $30 for year for 12 CME credits
• Free online access for residents
• No ads
• Editors have industry relationships
While we don’t have space to fully review them, other subscription newsletters to consider include The Brown University Psychopharmacology Update and Practical Reviews in Psychiatry.
If you’re not paying for it, somebody is—usually the pharmaceutical industry, but sometimes your professional society.
APA Headlines (http://psych.custombriefings. com): This is a handy daily email that arrives in your inbox at 8 every morning, and that summarizes recent news of interest to psychiatrists. It is an excellent way of quickly making sure nothing crucial escapes your attention. It requires membership in the APA.
Medscape (www.medscape.com): Provides a wealth of free information for psychiatrists, but be prepared for a heavy dose of animated ads touting Cymbalta, Pristiq, and whatever other drug is the subject of current industry promotion. Wading through the ads may be worthwhile, since there are information-packed “resource centers” providing digests of recent studies and FDA announcements. These “digests” are somewhat too long and detailed for my taste, and could benefit from some editing to make the bottom line more apparent. Medscape also offers a physician community, including blogs and forums.
MedPage Today (www.medpagetoday.com): This site is pharmaceutically funded via industry-funded CME courses and ads that are much less “in-your-face” than Medscape’s. The content is written by medical journalists, reviewed by MDs, and the writing is good. Each article includes useful “action points” describing how you might use the information in your practice. Some articles also include a brief video of a researcher or clinician being inteviewed (usually the primary author of the study being covered). You can register easily to create a psychiatry-focused site, and can opt to receive daily emails with updates on the latest news. The search function worked well, yielding a long list of clinically relevant hits for “antidepressants.”
MDlinx (www.mdlinx.com): This is an industryfunded information aggregator. You can sign up for daily emailed updates in any of 35 specialties or 845 subspecialties—including, of course, psychiatry. The site reveals its industry funding via banner ads, marketing questionnaires, and industry CME courses, but the actual content is quite easy to distinguish from the marketing offers. The articles are written by physicians (not necessarily psychiatrists) and consist of brief abstracts of studies with little if any commentary. The brevity of the summaries allow you to quickly scan the current literature, although the search function seems skewed toward topics of interest to primary care doctors needing psychiatric knowledge. My recent search for “antidepressants,” for example, featured articles on the use of ADs in treating headaches, on the antiplatelet effects of ADs from the journal Thrombosis Medicine, and on the treatment of chronic pain from the Korean Journal of Pain. (Thanks to Thomas Kramer for this tip.)