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Usability of Medical Resource Search Tools and Internet Search Engines in Retrieving Answers to Clinical Queries

Friday, November 08, 2013 — Poster Session III

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center (Upper-Level Terrace)




  • R.F. Sarmiento
  • F. Liu
  • P. Fontelo


The immense volume of medical information online necessitates clinicians to use relevant and useful tools to inform decision-making. We compared the usefulness of PubMed, UpToDate, Google and Bing in answering clinical queries by selecting 20 queries from the BestBETs database. Using a five-point Likert scale, clinical “bottom lines” from the first result retrieved by each search tool were compared to determine which tool consistently returned clinically useful information. We also grouped the search tools into two categories: medical resource tools (PubMed, UpToDate) and Internet search engines (Google, Bing). With PubMed arbitrarily set as the “gold standard”, the search results retrieved using Google, Bing and UpToDate were significantly better (Wilcoxon signed-rank test p-values of 0.004, 0.015 and 0.022, respectively). Internet search engines (median score = 3.49, interquartile range = 3.02 - 3.71) were also found to retrieve significantly better results (p-value = 0.032) than medical resource search tools (median score=3.71, interquartile range = 3.48600 - 4.03485). However, these study results indicate no significant difference in clinical usefulness between the search tools since all the differences in median scores were less than the predefined score of one point.

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