peter bonis

When market research firm InCrowd unveiled preliminary results from a study in which it asked 240 physicians to name their favorite trustworthy source for medical and pharmaceutical news, it came as something of a surprise that UpToDate landed on top. Twenty-nine percent of respondents pointed to the Wolters Kluwer-owned property as both comprehensive and easy to use, with Medscape following behind at 26%. No other source topped 12%.

UpToDate, which is as much a clinical decision support resource as a traditional media entity, has long been renowned among practitioners.

We asked Dr. Peter Bonis, chief medical officer, clinical effectiveness, Wolters Kluwer, Health, to discuss UpToDate’s evolution and its trust-based appeal to hard-to-reach HCPs.

MM&M: Are you at all surprised by UpToDate’s ranking in the study?

Dr. Peter Bonis: I’m not. I’m very gratified that we now demonstrably have external evidence of the trust and support we have from our audience. We do everything in our power every day to continue to earn it.

MM&M: UpToDate isn’t a traditional mainstream news source, but it doesn’t have a lot in common with clinical journals, either. How tough is it to walk that line?

Bonis: Well, we don’t strive to be newsy. If you want to see something that is so topical that it appears on the same day it happens, that’s not what we do. We try to synthesize. We try to add a thoughtful and peer-reviewed intense editorial process. When there’s new information about a drug, a device, a procedure [or] a clinical trial, the idea is to very thoughtfully take that new information and incorporate it into our existing body of knowledge.

Do we have features that look like news? We do. “Practice Changing UpDates” is for when a prudent clinician is doing something one way, but something came out that there might be a better way. That could be considered newsy.

If you’re a physician and something appears in the normal retail media, that’s a great news story – but maybe there’s some commentary about how it fits into clinical practice. If you want to take that next step – if you want the information synthesized into the existing knowledge base – that’s where UpToDate comes in.

MM&M: It feels like thoughtfulness is an important consideration in all of this.

Bonis: I can only speak about the editorial process. This is not to impugn other media outlets – I’m sure they’re thoughtful. We have a repeatable set of processes that we’ve used for many, many years. No one person can add content to UpToDate; there has to be a collaboration between, at a minimum, a deputy editor/physician, a section editor and in many cases collaborators and peer reviewers. We don’t write news update with quotes or opinions from KOLs – not that they’re bad.

MM&M: What has UpToDate done, and what does it continue to do, to distinguish itself in today’s health media landscape?

Bonis: Let me answer by slightly pivoting on the question. UpToDate was started by Bud Rose in 1992 – and at the time, it was absolutely revolutionary. Getting information directly out of journals and textbooks became less useful than getting it from sources like UpToDate.

HCPs or anyone else using UpToDate – they have to come to it. If that person’s question doesn’t get to a threshold where they want to seek information, they’ll act on their knowledge. The next frontier is to surface information when it’s needed, so we can get that information to frontline providers as they’re making that decision, to activate that new knowledge so that it’s not just a passive source.

Almost everyone in health media is looking to educate. But for clinicians to make use of information, it has to be organized and delivered in a way that it can impact care. It has to be accessible to HCPs as they’re working. The question we ask is “how do we take knowledge that’s out there and make sure it’s used at the appropriate time?”

MM&M: What differentiates UpToDate from the other media sources attempting to cater to physicians?

Bonis: We were out there first and we’ve had tremendous rigor in our editorial standards from the beginning, which earned us trust. Now we’ve kind of gotten scale as well. We’ve been able to add subspecialties – neurology, endocrinology, nephrology, 25 in all.

We have 1.8 million users across the world. We can avail ourselves of all of that usage to continue to make UpToDate better. There are 250 million searches in UpToDate a month.

MM&M: There’s an interactive component to it.

Bonis: If someone is dissatisfied, they can write to us. Every piece of feedback gets catalogued and sent to a physician in that specialty. There’s always a response.

MM&M: What do some media entities get wrong about their appeals to physicians?

Bonis: I think there’s a very broad landscape for informing clinicians about things that are happening relevant to the future of healthcare. Things aren’t just happening at national meetings.

We stick to our knitting. We pay attention to all these things, but incorporate them into context. When clinicians come to us, they trust that we’ve done our due diligence and know we’ll put everything into its contextual place. Everybody has a role; we do one particular slice and do it well.

MM&M: Which other health media outlets are doing good work?

Bonis: I don’t think I can possibly say I’m an expert about all the outlets. For each of the specialties, there are a number of different resources. I’m a gastroenterologist; there are plenty of media outlets that target gastroenterologists and share things that are of interest. You’ve mentioned Medscape – over many years it has created a nice portal for delivering news and a bunch of other resources. The journals themselves are still an important source of advancing new information.

MM&M: What’s next? How does UpToDate build on its current offering?

Bonis: Again, we’re very much a mission-oriented company. Part of our mission is to make sure clinicians all over the world h­­­­­ave a resource they can trust and use to answer clinical questions. That’s our true north, to deliver content and add content in ways that are more useful, particularly at the point of care. We can do this as HCPs are working in electronic medical record systems. We can put content in front of people unintrusively.

We’ll make better use of multimedia, better use of IT, better use of workflow technology – we’re already doing all of that. We want to help frontline providers.

This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.