Thursday 29 August 2019

Spotlight on BMJ Best Practice and 67 Bricks - shortlisted for the 2019 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

On 12 September, at the ALPSP Conference, we will be announcing the winners of the 2019 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  In this series of posts leading up to the Awards ceremony, we meet our finalists and get to know a bit more about them.

First of all we hear about BMJ Best Practice and 67 Bricks

BMJ Best Practice
BMJ is a healthcare knowledge provider that advances healthcare worldwide by sharing knowledge and expertise to improve experiences, outcomes and value. BMJ Best Practice is a generalist point of care tool particularly useful for junior doctors, multidisciplinary teams, specialists working outside of their specialty and GPs. It is uniquely structured around the patient consultation with advice on symptom evaluation, test ordering and treatment approach for over 1000 conditions across 30 specialties. BMJ Best Practice provides a rich source of expertise that healthcare professionals rely on every day.

67 Bricks are a software development consultancy who help publishers deliver information products for the data-driven world. We give publishers control, flexibility and agility so that they can deliver the compelling user experiences that their customers increasingly demand. Our custom-built solutions enable publishers to increase the value of their content, support existing and new business models, enable better reuse of content and deliver increased revenues from digital products.

What is the project that you submitted for the Awards?

At BMJ Best Practice we wanted to be more innovative with our product development pipeline and user experience in line with our users’ changing needs and expectations. Clinicians increasingly want concise answers at the point of care rather than long-form reference text, but our content was being created, stored and presented as monolithic articles typically extending to thousands of words. This made it difficult to improve the user interface and limited our ability to slice and dice content to power new products or to deliver our content to third parties for integration into granular software systems, for example Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.

We therefore took a strategic decision not only to relaunch the product, but to build a completely new editorial production system, and crucially, to reinvent the underlying data structure of the content to make it more granular, flexible and reusable. To help us achieve this we partnered with publishing technology experts 67 Bricks. The success of the project has enabled us to satisfy current market demands, create new market opportunities, upskill our technology team and provides a springboard for further product innovation.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The most visible outcome of the project is our relaunched point of care tool, BMJ Best Practice. It is significantly more user focused and we have introduced many new features. For example users now have the ability to:
  • switch languages
  • receive important updates on the latest evidence changes
  • access 400+ calculators
  • watch practical videos of common procedures.
We have seen a 202% growth in traffic, 39% increase in year-on-year revenue and a 95% retention rate.

In addition, our internal staff now have a much improved content production system which is responsive, collaborative, quicker to use and supported by a powerful faceted search function. As a result of this and our new ability to integrate with third parties we have been able to revolutionise our content translation process leading to an 80% increase in capacity and 40% reduction in costs.

The achievement we are probably most proud of is that our content is now structured and managed in a much more futureproof way. As such we are in a better place to continue to innovate our current and existing products, build partnerships and integrate with third party systems. A lot of intelligent work went on “behind the scenes” in order to achieve this, for example:
  • We created a new content model, composed of individually referenceable fragments of content (e.g. assessment, diagnosis), which was refined iteratively throughout the project. More standardised than the old model, it provides us the scope to reuse, repackage and serve up our content in different ways.
  • A Knowledge Base API was built to allow the new website to retrieve the content to power innovative front-end features such as enhanced search capability and medical recommendations.This API can also be used by BMJ or new partners to power future products. 
  • Content enrichment and entity recognition was used to add significantly more value to our existing content, for example to identify drug names and diagnoses.
The joint BMJ and 67 Bricks team behind the project consisted of technology, content, product and market experts. Agile methodology and the principles of user-led ‘Pragmatic Marketing’ were used to ensure that customer problems were addressed first and foremost. BMJ and 67 Bricks’ developers worked together in an Agile way, as one co-development team, developing, prototyping, testing and gathering and responding to user feedback ‘on the go’. This was facilitated through heavy use of online communication channels, daily joint stand-ups and reciprocal code review. The team were able to talk openly about how to implement features and a shared understanding of the business drivers meant that everyone on the team was working towards a common goal. Co-developing the solution in this way has ensured maximum knowledge transfer to BMJ’s developers who are now well placed to continue to maintain and extend Best Practice to meet future needs.

What are your plans for the future?

Longer term we are in a much improved position. Our content is now more flexible, granular and standardised, which means we have the opportunity to innovate and build commercial partnerships in a way we weren’t able to do before. 


The impact of the new, revamped product and the competitive advantages that our improved content and data capabilities have brought have already been significant. Our customer retention rate has exceeded 90% and we have 3 major product development projects in the pipeline. We are actively pursuing opportunities for Best Practice to link with Electronic Healthcare Records (EHR) and we have been able to tender for content related business opportunities that were previously out of reach, with clients such as NHS England, Wales and Scotland.
photo Chris Wroe

Chris Wroe, MB BChir is a health informatician at the BMJ ensuring BMJ’s healthcare content can be integrated into the heart of the clinical workflow. He is a qualified medical doctor, with 18 years experience in bio-health informatics and a special interest in biomedical ontologies.

photo Isaac Menso

Isaac Menso, is the Product Development Manager for the BMJ Knowledge Centre, working to create new products and develop existing products that solve market problems. He is passionate about building innovative digital solutions that help people.

photo Jennifer Schivas
Jennifer Schivas is Head of Strategy and Industry Engagement at 67 Bricks, a software development consultancy that help publishers deliver data-driven information products. She has previously held roles at Oxford University Press, Taylor & Francis and Intellect Books. 

Twitter: @BMJBestPractice and @67bricks
See the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2019 finalists at the ALPSP Conference on 11-13 September where the winners will be announced. 

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by MPS Ltd.

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