Net Improvement of Correct Answers to Therapy Questions After PubMed Searches: Pre/Post Comparison
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BACKGROUND: Clinicians search PubMed for answers to clinical questions although it is time consuming and not always successful. OBJECTIVE: To determine if PubMed used with its Clinical Queries feature to filter results based on study quality would improve search success (more correct answers to clinical questions related to therapy). METHODS: We invited 528 primary care physicians to participate, 143 (27.1%) consented, and 111 (21.0% of the total and 77.6% of those who consented) completed the study. Participants answered 14 yes/no therapy questions and were given 4 of these (2 originally answered correctly and 2 originally answered incorrectly) to search using either the PubMed main screen or PubMed Clinical Queries narrow therapy filter via a purpose-built system with identical search screens. Participants also picked 3 of the first 20 retrieved citations that best addressed each question. They were then asked to re-answer the original 14 questions. RESULTS: We found no statistically significant differences in the rates of correct or incorrect answers using the PubMed main screen or PubMed Clinical Queries. The rate of correct answers increased from 50.0% to 61.4% (95% CI 55.0%-67.8%) for the PubMed main screen searches and from 50.0% to 59.1% (95% CI 52.6%-65.6%) for Clinical Queries searches. These net absolute increases of 11.4% and 9.1%, respectively, included previously correct answers changing to incorrect at a rate of 9.5% (95% CI 5.6%-13.4%) for PubMed main screen searches and 9.1% (95% CI 5.3%-12.9%) for Clinical Queries searches, combined with increases in the rate of being correct of 20.5% (95% CI 15.2%-25.8%) for PubMed main screen searches and 17.7% (95% CI 12.7%-22.7%) for Clinical Queries searches. CONCLUSIONS: PubMed can assist clinicians answering clinical questions with an approximately 10% absolute rate of improvement in correct answers. This small increase includes more correct answers partially offset by a decrease in previously correct answers.
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