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Single user version, network versions available. Oxford University Press. (Available from Healthworks Ltd, 30–38 Dock Street, Leeds LS10 1JF; tel: 0113 234 6624, fax: 0113 242 7782, e-mail:; the Oxford Clinical Mentor Plus is the new updated and expanded edition of the Oxford Clinical Mentor and costs £150 plus VAT.)
Increasingly well known medical texts are being republished as software for use on computers. These may have advantages over print and paper for the computer literate user particularly for the facility to search text rapidly.
The Oxford Clinical Mentor is described as an “electronic medical knowledge support system”. More precisely it consists of the texts of the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine and the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Specialties presented for use on a personal computer. Additionally the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Rarities is included, which is not available as a book. An IBM compatible computer with a minimum specification of a 486 DX-66 with 8 MB RAM and 30 MB hard disc space is required. The software runs under Windows 3.1 (or higher) or Windows 95. The publishers state that it is designed “for use in GPs' surgeries, hospital casualty departments and by medical students everywhere”.
The main search window allows rapid access to the information required but takes a little time to master. The text provided is of high quality and will be familiar to many who have used the books. The emphasis is on general medicine and though most other areas of medicine are covered, it could not be accepted as a comprehensive text for doctors working in accident and emergency (A&E) departments. There is extensive cross referencing that is accessed by electronic jumps and references for further reading. There is a temptation to browse through the different sections of the programme, which might prove a distraction for junior colleagues.
Although the Oxford Clinical Mentor is an innovative way of providing access to medical information its clinical content is more suitable for use in general practice than A&E. A similar system more orientated to the clinical problems of A&E medicine would be a welcome addition to a department's resources. While the Oxford Clinical Handbooks are a valued part of most departmental libraries, I would not recommend the purchase of this electronic version for use on A&E computer systems.
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