Essential Medical Books
February 28, 2014 2:08 PM   Subscribe

I've been tasked with putting together a medical library for my small disability law firm. Doctors, what are five essential medical books that we should look at obtaining regarding general medical practice?

Note: We've got a bunch of medical dictionaries and anatomy texts. What else should we put on the shelf?
posted by Dignan to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Not a book, and not cheap, but there's no better general medical reference than
posted by arrmatie at 2:19 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you must get a subscription to UpToDate. It provides an overview of most every major medical topic and a description of the current standard of care/treatment and, while it's written with physicians in mind, presupposes no prior specialist-level knowledge. A lawyer who deals with medical topics frequently would have no trouble grokking it.

I'm also a fan of Essential Evidence Plus, which provides pithy insight into the current evidence supporting the standard of care for most major medical issues.

If you're looking for a book, how about Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment (CMDT)? It's a boat anchor of a clinical reference and covers many general medical topics well.

For pharmaceuticals, I like ePocrates, which again is not a book but a database you can use to look up summary information about prescription drugs, their indications and side effects, and their interaction with other drugs.

I'll mull this over and see if I can come up with some more suggestions for you.
posted by killdevil at 2:29 PM on February 28, 2014

I am a medical librarian and would ask: what is your goal, what questions do your lawyers have, how much money and time do you have?

Money and time relate to how often you can update these things. Electronic materials are pricier but are more often updated, so are better for medical info. But if you dont have a person to continually manage your e-subscriptions (setting up logins, negotiating contracts, maintaining web links to the material, troubleshoting problems) for at least an hour a week, then print books are an easier one-and-done purchase.

Print books on definitions of conditions go out of date less infrequently, but genetically-focused material is an exception. If you need info on the newest treatments for something, print books are only good for about 6 months after publishing.

Uptodate is a great site, but VERY pricey (for libraries and hospitals at least- for a medical practice with 5 docs I'd guess $20,000 annually? they will try to soak a law firm, they also have a contract clause that you cannot reveal your costs to colleagues, which is a "good" sign as you likely understand as a lawyer). It would give you general overviews of the current best way to treat a condition, as well as some drugs information.

However, most lawyers who show up at my library have such specific questions, because most medical malpractice and disability claims center on UNUSUAL or UNEXPECTED conditions, so UpToDate is not useful. Like, a lawyer will ask, if my patient has condition x and also has lupus, can drug y be a treatment for condition x? Uptodate will tell you about condition x, but not cover condition x and lupus together. Plus, if drug y is not used frequently, uptodate may not list it for condition y, although it may be a totally reasonable choice in this particular case.

If you have specific questions like this, i would recommend spending your money on hiring a librarian to teach your staff how to search, and services through which you can buy single journal articles. You can use for free to identify the articles of interest, then a service like the Document Delivery for non- UCLA users linked on this page. I used to work for ucla, only reason i use this as an example. Many public universities offer similar services.
posted by holyrood at 5:12 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Disagree about epocrates as a good drug info tool. I tell my pharmacy and med studemts to use it as a refresher for their memories, not a way to learn new info. It uses too many abbreviations to be easily understandable to non-clinicians, only includes the most common on- label uses (not all!) and omits counseling info, full interactions, and adverse effects information, the areas of most interest to lawyers who arrive at my library. Uptodate has full drug monographs from Gold Standard, a very reputable medical publisher.
posted by holyrood at 5:21 PM on February 28, 2014

I am a lawyer, not a doctor, but I emphasize using primary medical textbooks rather than medical references for lawyers. I would suggest including:

The Merck Manual
Campbell's Operative Orthopedics
Harrison's - Internal Medicine
posted by megatherium at 5:29 PM on February 28, 2014

I would get familiar with, a collection of evidence-based clinical guidelines.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:59 PM on February 28, 2014

I was going to say Harrison's Internal Medicine as well. But I do like UpToDate if you can afford it. I don't really use general medical references other than that and eMedicine because I am a specialist (a generalist specialist, I guess).

I think holyrood's suggestion about PubMed is a good idea but only if you have someone in your practice with medical training. Having access to the articles is only part of the battle, knowing what they mean is the real challenge.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:11 PM on February 28, 2014

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