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Publishing dermatology therapy reviews on-line

  • Author(s): Huntley, Arthur
  • et al.
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Publishing dermatology therapy reviews on-line
Arthur Huntley
Dermatology Online Journal 5(1):10

The current issue of Dermatology Online Journal introduces a new section of articles termed "Therapy in Dermatology". The one article in this issue is actually a prototype for a large series of similar works, intended to form the corpus of an on-line treatment database reference on the treatment of skin disease. It would appear that on-line publishing is an ideal venue for sharing this information. Residing on-line, information may exist in a database to provide better access and be revised as needed to reflect current changes in our knowledge.

One of the major shortcomings of the Internet today is the lack not of quantity but of veracity of information that one can encounter. Medicine especially has traditionally not done well with unregulated publishing, and this has led to a system in the academic world where scholarly output is measured in terms of peer-reviewed work. Independent verification is important, especially when one is seeking new information about treatment options. Publishing scholarly treatment reviews in the on-line Journal subjects that work to anonymous peer-review process. The author will chose comments with great care, the work will be carefully evaluated, and the author receive appropriate academic recognition. The reader may take comfort knowing that the contents have been been through the process.

The on-line mileau appars to be an outstanding site for providing wide access to information. This is especially true when information is not restricted by password protection or access fee. Authors who create scholarly material are best served by the widest possible dissemination of that work. With the rapid adoption of the Internet by the medical community, easily accessed relevant treatment information should find a wide audience.

Medical reference material, such as information on how to treat diseases, is best served through a database, an application that saves information in pre-defined fields and serves those fields as requested. Providing access to database-type information is perhaps the greatest advantages of computers today. This is readily apparent to anyone who has performed a literature search in Index Medicus and then in the on-line version MEDLINE. A database application can provide focused and rapid access to the contents.

With the rapid growth of medical knowledge, updating the contents of reference material is of increasing importance, and the Internet may be the most efficient method of accomplishing this. The treatment of some diseases today may be radically different than it might have been one year ago (for example Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis may be treated with immune globulin or cyclosporine this year as apposed to purely supportive measures before.) Supporting the updating of reference material has been costly for paper-media. The recent cessataion of the publication of "Clinical Dermatology", a definitive textbook for the field, was apparently for financial considerations on the part of the publisher. On-line publishing may step in to fill the void created by the constraints of the traditional paper publishing world, especially for reference information, that material best served by providing rapid accesss to focused areas through the use of a database.