FIGURE 2-5 Number of journal articles published on health care topics per year from 1970 to 2010. Publications have increased steadily over 40 years, with the rate of increase becoming more pronounced starting approximately in 2000.
SOURCE: Data obtained from online searches at PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/.
11 systematic reviews of trials per day (Bastian et al., 2010). The pace at which new knowledge is produced outstrips the ability of any individual clinician to read, remember, and manage information that could inform clinical practice. A survey of faculty at one academic medical center found that they each read up to 322 papers per year (Tenopir et al., 2004). Given the almost 450,000 papers published in 2000, this amounts to less than 0.1 percent of the medical literature produced during the initial year in which the survey was conducted. Even within a narrow specialty, it is impossible for a clinician to keep pace with the published medical literature. If a clinician training in cardiac imaging read 40 papers a day for 5 days a week, then it would take more than 11 years for that clinician to become up to date in the field. By that time, however, another 82,000 potentially relevant papers would have been published, which would require another 8 years of reading. These figures assume that the clinician needs to know only about cardiac imaging and need not remain current in any other area of medical knowledge (Fraser and Dunstan, 2010).