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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2007 Jan;80(3):239-47. Epub 2006 Jun 21.

Effectiveness and efficiency of a literature search strategy to answer questions on the etiology of occupational diseases: a controlled trial.

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Coronel Institute of Occupational Health/Netherlands Center for Occupational Diseases, Academic Medical Center, Universiteit van Amsterdam, P.O. Box 22700, 1100 DE, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



To evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of a search strategy to find evidence-based answers to questions related to the possible occupational etiology of diseases.


A controlled trial of 70 occupational health physicians and 55 insurance physicians who were asked to answer one out of four 'occupational disease case-vignettes' following the steps of evidence-based medicine (EBM). The intervention group were given the search strategy as a tool.


The intervention group scored significantly better than the control group in answering the main question of the case-vignette correctly (57% versus 37%) using more adequate search terms. The intervention group scored significantly better regarding satisfaction with the applied search strategy (28% very satisfied versus 8%). We found no differences in time spent in solving the case or in the intention of future practice of EBM.


The introduction and application of specific search strategies can have a positive effect on the effectiveness of searching literature. Future initiatives for developing and testing specific search strategies in the field of occupational health should be encouraged.

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