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Acad Med. 2005 Jan;80(1):109-14.

Providing evidence-based answers to complex clinical questions: evaluating the consistency of article selection.

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Department of Biomedical Informatics, The Vanderbuilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.



Health care providers must maintain familiarity with current biomedical evidence, but clinicians struggle to maintain their awareness of current research because of the demands of daily practice and the exponential growth of medical knowledge. Clinical information specialists (informationists), trained experts in reviewing and filtering the medical literature in response to complex clinical queries, may be able to assist practicing clinicians. This study compared informationists and two categories of physicians in their article selection in response to two complex clinical questions.


The study was performed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A total of 15 faculty and staff from three groups were recruited (five general physicians, five physicians trained in research methodology, and five informationists). The participants reviewed two previously selected clinical questions, worked in focus groups to define the pertinent facet questions of the questions, and then ranked the articles by pertinence to the clinical questions.


In general, both informationists and physicians trained in research methodology had a high degree of intergroup agreement for ranking article pertinence, while the generalists were less likely to agree on pertinent articles.


These findings suggest that informationists consistently select articles relevant to answering complex clinical queries and may assist practicing clinicians by providing information relevant to patient cases.

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