A look at a new type of medical research app

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Those of us who cover medical studies on a regular basis are always looking for ways to uncover new and interesting research aside from the embargoed releases from the major journals and services such as EurekAlert! Using alerts on PubMed is one option, and now there’s a new app called Case.

I first learned about the app in March when Avikk Ghose, Case’s CEO and co-founder, reached out to me on email. I checked out the app at the time but found some features limited for the way I specifically look for research. (Since it’s aimed at researchers themselves, it was at the time still too hyperspecific for me as a journalist.)

But over the past several months, Case’s developers have consistently updated the app based on feedback (including mine), and the app has evolved into a more helpful, user-friendly tool for keeping up with research in topic areas you might cover. One particularly nice aspect is that its algorithm learns from how you use it. In addition, for those doing in-depth research about something very specific for a feature, Case may help ensure you don’t miss a new study just before heading to print.

I asked Ghose a few questions about the app for health journalists who may be interested in checking it out.

Q: Why did you develop this app? What need did you feel was missing that you thought it would fill?

A: In 2015, I met a urologic cancer surgeon who was treating my father at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. The surgeon was sharp, compassionate and had been my father’s favorite health care provider. To protect her privacy, let’s call her Dr. Grey.

Dr. Grey’s schedule was overbooked with surgery, patient consultations and tumor boards. In between meetings, she checked her iPhone to respond to emails, texts and calls. If she had a few minutes, she also reviewed the latest research in urologic oncology. As a teaching physician, she cared deeply about leading-edge research and subscribed to over 10 medical journals. With so many journals, it was challenging to find and share essential articles with her residents. Dr. Grey explained, “Now I receive emails from the Journal of Clinical Oncology, JAMA and others and have to visit many different sites for important research. I’d love to have this information condensed into one mobile app to save time.”

To address this unmet need, we developed Case, a smart mobile app for physicians and researchers. Case helps you track the latest research in your precise area of focus such as a disease, drug, gene, pathway or protein. For example, an oncologist can follow acute myeloid leukemia, tumor suppressor protein p53 and targeted therapy midostaurin. Any research matching your topics will be displayed in your feed in real-time.

Q: How does Case differ from other apps that help users tap into peer-reviewed research searches and updates?

A: Case differs in several ways:

  • Case tracks the latest research in your area of focus by topic (disease, drug, gene, pathway or protein). Other apps let you follow a specialty or collection of journals, which means that: a) you may receive articles outside your area of focus, and b) you may miss important articles within your area of focus.
  • We use artificial intelligence based on Google TensorFlow to learn your research preferences and get smarter over time, similar to Netflix recommendations. This addresses information overload and saves you time.

Q: What is your favorite feature of Case and why?

A: My personal favorite is our language translation feature. We can automatically translate abstracts into over 100 languages including Chinese, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and more. Today, approximately 80 percent of all journals indexed in Scopus are published in English. We believe it’s essential to remove barriers for non-English speaking physicians and researchers that work tirelessly to improve the lives of patients.

Q: What bugs are you still working out and what features are you still working to improve?

A: Our longer-term plans for 2018: make it easy for medical associations and researchers to post scientific videos directly to their followers on Case.

Q: How do you think Case would be most useful for health journalists?

A: Journalists can use Case to track the latest research in your precise area of focus by topic (disease, drug, gene, pathway or protein) and filter by specific journals and/or impact factor. This lets you easily and quickly keep up-to-date with important research that should be broadly shared with the general public and trade publications.

Q: Any specific tips on how to get started with it?

A: Yes! Before you register, consider which topics are most important to you. For example, based on your recent publications [Ghose was referring to me personally], I see that you may be interested in following “obesity,” “pediatrics” and “vaccine.”

After entering your topics, click “Customize” on your Home feed, then “Journals” to select or deselect your preferred journals. Optionally, you may also click “Types” to filter by publication types. Any research matching your topics will be displayed in your Home feed in real-time.

1 thought on “A look at a new type of medical research app

  1. Norman Bauman

    What

    I’m not sure what a journalist or a doctor would get out of this app that we wouldn’t get from a good PubMed search. Admittely it takes some work to understand PubMed and customize it for your purposes, but if you’re looking for peer-reviewed studies, PubMed (or an equivalent) is indispensible, and PubMed is free.

    A medical librarian once told me that doctors start their research with a review article from a core medical journal, which were then conveniently listed in the Brandon-Hill list. I chose NEJM, JAMA, Lancet, and BMJ for a short list. I should add Cochrane.

    “Obesity” is a very broad topic, but my limiting myself to review articles in 4 or 5 core journals, I get just the most important articles (or at least Jeffrey Drazen’s selection of the most important articles). If I don’t get any hits, I leave off the “review” keyword. Or I use 10 core journals from the Brandon-Hill list. Or I search the core journals from Brandon-Hill’s specialty lists. Or I do a broad search of all the journals. If I get too many, I restrict the search to articles with “obesity” in the title (or tweak the MESH keyword). Or I ask the librarian’s question: what exactly are you looking for?

    So here’s my PubMed search:
    ((((“The New England journal of medicine”[Journal] OR “JAMA”[Journal]) OR “JAMA internal medicine”[Journal]) OR “Lancet”[Journal]) OR “BMJ (Clinical research ed.)”[Journal]) AND “review”[Publication Type]

    (Don’t forget to add Cochrane.)

    And if you click on this (if it works), you should get my search for “obesity” (all 256 hits).
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=(obesity)%20AND%20(((((((%22The%20New%20England%20journal%20of%20medicine%22%5BJournal%5D)%20OR%20%22JAMA%22%5BJournal%5D)%20OR%20%22JAMA%20internal%20medicine%22%5BJournal%5D)%20OR%20%22Lancet%22%5BJournal%5D)%20OR%20%22BMJ%20(Clinical%20research%20ed.)%22%5BJournal%5D))%20AND%20%22review%22%5BPublication%20Type%5D)

    This search is obviously not perfect and needs some tweaking. Ghose is welcome to improve it.

    Here’s the Brandon-Hill list https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC31721/ which is unfortunately not updated since Dorothy Hill’s retirement in 2001. If you know of anything better, let me know.

    When I’m looking for current information (in an “In the other journals this week” column, for example), I use Feedly (successor to Google Reader), and scan the table of contents of those same journals.

    Of course you can learn more about this in the AHCJ Tip Sheets https://healthjournalism.org/core-topic.php?id=4&page=tipsheets https://blogs.plos.org/blog/2015/11/30/9-pubmed-ninja-skills/

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