Behind CovidReview.ca – How McMaster Medical Students Created an Evidence-Based Medicine Database to Aid in the Fight against COVID-19

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The Necessity For Knowledge

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed how physicians practice medicine worldwide and has created a wide information gap as clinicians struggle to integrate the immense volume of new research into their practice. Primary literature of varying quality is being published at an accelerated pace, and the lack of strong evidence for diagnostics, treatments, and interventions only further contributes to this uncertainty.

Dr. Mark Crowther, Chair of the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, identified the need for a resource to fill this knowledge gap for frontline clinicians and researchers. Becky Jones, a medical student at McMaster, connected with Dr. Crowther to spearhead the project and subsequently recruited fellow medical students Meghan Glibbery, Hannah Kearney, and Daniel Levin to aid with project coordination and publication review. They were joined by Jasper Ho, another medical student with expertise in programming and website design. Due to the overwhelming volume of literature published daily, four additional medical students were recruited to assist with publication review (Jillian Howden, Maya Amar, Sara Markovic, John Kim).

The Creation of a Publication Repository

The team’s initial goal was to create a repository of screened publications that would be circulated to frontline physicians in the Hamilton area. To achieve this, PubMed-indexed publications about COVID-19 would be screened for relevance to frontline clinicians and scientists. This database would centralize the most relevant and significant COVID-19 publications.

We realized that it would be more beneficial for all physicians and researchers to be able to access our work, regardless of location or specialty. This sparked the creation of an open-source online tool where our most up-to-date results would be published and categorized. To achieve this, we use a flexible filtering system. For example, an ER physician interested in the latest guidelines regarding the intubation of COVID-19 patients can access articles related to airway management in COVID-positive patients quickly. Similarly, an internist interested in all COVID-related randomized clinical trials published within a particular journal can access these publications with only a few clicks. Articles can be filtered based on journal, type of study, authors, and medical specialty.

Image: covidreview.ca homepage

Worldwide Impact in the Digital Age

Our team is continually screening new literature and updating the database. To date, we have reviewed over 3000 articles and have included almost 1000 publications relevant to the fight against COVID-19. Since the launch on April 13, we have delivered our work to over 1300 people in 45 countries.

Next Steps

As the pandemic continues to unfold and more research is conducted, our team plans to continue to search PubMed; these publications will be reviewed on a weekly basis and subsequently entered into the database. We will continue to promote our project and collaborate with other COVID-19 resources in order to ensure that frontline clinicians and researchers are able to access current literature easily and efficiently.

We also hope to continually add features that will aid users in finding the information they need. Features we hope to add include:

  • Organizing articles by country of origin
  • Statistical breakdown of included studies based on specialty and study type
  • Ability to export references in standard formats
  • A more nuanced publication type, e.g. evidence-based clinical guidelines or reports of interventions/treatments

As medical students, we remain unsure of how long we will be removed from our clinical rotations. However, we do know that while we may not be able to contribute to patient care directly, we can continue to improve our database and support our frontline health care workers from a distance.

This post was copyedited by @alexsenger.

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Becky Jones

Becky Jones

Becky Jones is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Niagara Regional Campus). She is passionate about women’s health, primary care, and medical education. Outside of medicine, she enjoys travelling, fitness, taking her dog for long walks, and doing excessive amounts of puzzles.
Jasper Ho

Jasper Ho

Jasper Ho is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Hamilton Campus). He is passionate about the intersection of data and medicine, and in his spare time enjoys mid-distance running and starting too many TV shows.
Hannah Kearney

Hannah Kearney

Hannah Kearney is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Niagara Regional Campus). She is passionate about primary care, medical education, and medical trainee wellness. In addition to medicine, she enjoys reading, F45, and attempting to make sourdough bread.
Meghan Glibbery

Meghan Glibbery

Meghan is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Niagara Regional Campus). Prior to medicine, she completed a Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has an avid interest in all things pediatrics, preventative medicine, and public health, but also enjoys reading, running, and hanging out at Camp Ooch.
Daniel Levin

Daniel Levin

Daniel Levin is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Niagara Regional Campus). He has an interest in anesthesia, internal medicine and primary care. He is passionate about the use of evidence based medicine in clinical practice and in his spare time enjoys fitness, Netflix documentaries and pie (apple > pumpkin > everything else).
Maya Amar

Maya Amar

Maya Amar is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Hamilton Campus). She has an interest in medical education, endocrinology and metabolism, and primary care. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, group fitness classes, and travelling.
Sara Markovic

Sara Markovic

Sara is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Hamilton Campus) happily consuming, sharing, and collaborating on all things pediatrics, health advocacy, and medical education-related. If she’s not tweeting about one of those, you can probably find her raving about #HamOnt or her latest good read.
Jillian Howden

Jillian Howden

Jillian Howden is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Hamilton Campus). She has an interest in primary care, medical education, and community health. She also enjoys spending time outdoors, art, and baking.
John Kim

John Kim

John is a second year medical student at McMaster University (Hamilton Campus). He is passionate about the integration of medical research into clinical practice, and promoting social wellness within medical school. Outside of medicine, he is interested in playing guitar, cooking, and powerlifting.