Working as a health writer requires you to keep up with the latest research published in science, medicine and health. Medicine is a rapidly-evolving field, and emerging research is constantly changing the way health professionals treat and manage health conditions, prescribe medications, understand how diseases impact the body, and more.
Although it’s ideal to aim to read the latest news and developments in research on a daily basis – or at least a few times per week – you may feel you’re not able to keep up with research if you don’t have clear strategies in place.
The simplest way to be kept abreast of innovations in the health industry is to read widely, which means you need access to a variety of sources.
If you have a health related blog, you should be aware of updates in your selected area of expertise by following trends and topics related to the theme of your blog.
If you’re spending too much effort searching for and sourcing published articles, there are a few easy ways to find research so you can spend more time reading, and less time searching.
Subscribe to Table of Contents (TOCs) alerts
Most scientific and medical peer-reviewed journals have TOCs freely available to subscribers, and these are delivered via email to your inbox. Every time a new journal is published, TOCs are released outlining the contents of the issue.
TOCs are a great way to grab overviews of research published in journals, allowing you to scan and select the articles that are relevant or useful for your writing. As an example, a few journals I subscribe to are Science, Nature and The Journal of Genetic Counselling.
Subscribe to health news alerts
Health news alerts are also delivered as an email to your inbox to help keep you informed of new industry developments. Sometimes experts are interviewed to give perspectives.
Some online newspapers and magazines have features that let you subscribe to health news – or, you can identify your preferred health, medical and industry publications to follow. Subscribing means the content is delivered to you, and you don’t have to remember to browse the website regularly. A couple of health news organisations I receive alerts from are the Health News Review and Fierce Healthcare
Set up keyword alerts
You can use Google alerts to set up alerts for specific keywords related to a health topic of interest. For example if you have a health blog, you can save keywords that will automatically send an alert to your inbox each time an online articles is published that contains the keywords.
This is a very handy tool to select research related to specific health topics that are of interest to your writing. And it can save you time performing daily searches to keep updated.
Set up author and journal alerts from Pubmed
PubMed has an advanced search function that allows you to create a search with an email alert. You can select high impact journals or author alerts for any new articles published and receive emails depending on the schedule you select.
For example, if you have written a clinical guideline that needs updating at regular intervals, the PubMed alert is a great way to ensure the guideline reflects the latest research follows best-practice recommendations.
Apps for journal readers
There are some amazing apps that can scan and select published articles for you to read. Read by QxMD is a great app that I use to send alerts to my email daily. It has been compared to a ‘flipboard’ for medical journals and is surprisingly user friendly. I definitely recommend you use an app to save time searching the literature.
Health writers can sometimes overlook the power of social media as a resource. But in fact, it’s an interactive option to keep up with health industry updates and take part in important conversations. If you’re not already on Twitter, it’s a great place to follow and join discussions on health by using the hashtag function.
LinkedIn and Google Plus also provide access to a global network of contacts who report on research via the groups options. These social media tools can allow you to keep up with local and international trends in health.
Do you use other online tools for keeping up with research? Share your tips in the comments below.