Publishing, discovering and unlocking the value of medical case reports

 

BMC Research Notes is now accepting submissions of case reports. Alongside Journal of Medical Case Reports, and Cases Database, which launches later this year, BioMed Central offers medical professionals a comprehensive forum in which to publish and access clinical cases reports.

To mark the publication of its first case reports, by Paul S Issak and Yong-Xin Sun et al, BMC Research Notes Associate Editor Dr. Alberto Cabán-Martinez and his colleague Dr.Wilfredo García Beltrán have written a commentary discussing the educational value of publishing case reports and their importance to the development of evidence-based medical practice.

Documenting a patient’s case history to inform physicians how they have been evaluated and the subsequent progression their disease is arguably the oldest method of communicating medical evidence and has always played a central role in the development of medical practice. As Cabán-Martinez and García Beltrán point out;

“Documenting medical case histories to advance the knowledgebase of clinical medicine has been occurring since the
time of Hippocrates (460 B.C.–370 B.C.)”

Yet despite their benefit to physicians – particularly in the absence of prospective studies – case reports have traditionally been a neglected area for publication. Concerns over impact factors and lack of space in traditional journals are at least partially to blame, leading many journals to decide against publishing case reports as they do not often receive a large number of citations.

This was one of the reasons why in 2007 Prof Michael Kidd in conjunction with BioMed Central set up Journal of Medical Case Reports. The first open access, international medical journal devoted to publishing case reports across all clinical disciplines. Journal of Medical Case Reports has now made over 2000 case reports available to the medical community, online and free to access. In an editorial to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the journal, Editor-in-Chief Michael Kidd illustrates why case reports still play an important role in 21st Century medical literature:

 “In this era of evidence-based practice, we need practice-based evidence. The basis of this evidence is the detailed information we obtain from each person that we see in our clinics; the information about individual people that informs both our daily clinical care and clinical research.”

As with the BMC-series journals, Journal of Medical Case Reports publishes only those case reports that are the first of their kind to be published in the English language medical literature. BMC Research Notes’ inclusive ethos means that with the launch of its case report article type, all well-reported, ethically and scientifically sound case reports may be considered for publication. The journal’s innovative, streamlined peer-review process will also allow for decreased publication times and increased author satisfaction.

BMC Research Notes was established with the aim to reducing the loss to the scientific community when results remain unpublished due to their interest level. In light of this commitment to completing the scientific record it is felt that everyday cases, as well as particularly rare ones, still have significant educational value.

An increased number of case reports poses an important question; how to aggregate the data that case reports offer in an accessible, practical form? It is to address this issue that BioMed Central will launch Cases Database later in 2012.  Drawing in case reports from all BioMed Central and SpringerOpen journals, Cases Database is a continuously updated, freely accessible database of case reports. With over 5,000 cases already included, Cases Database is the first searchable, online collation of case reports in the world. A freely accessible case reports database will add value to case report data by allowing comparison of similar cases, facilitating emergence and the early identification of trends. This will maximize the usefulness of each case report, and may ultimately help to benefit human health.

The launch of BMC Research Notes’ case reports article type and the impending arrival of Cases Database will compliment the innovative work being done by Journal of Medical Case Reports. BioMed Central aims to offer the biomedical community a complete solution for case reports; in how to publish them, and how to unlock the value of the data they contain. Our ambition is that BioMed Central will be at the vanguard of maximizing the utility of case reports, as Michael Kidd states in his editorial;

“It is time for case reports to be considered first class citizens in the medical literature.”

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