However, over the last few years my reservations about clinical search has grown. To define that further, I mean clinical search for busy clinicians (as opposed to librarians, information specialists, academics etc). Those that need a rapid answer to their clinical questions.
The current search paradigm is that users add 1-3 search terms, press 'search' and sift through the top 10-20 results to find the answer they're looking for. Below are a few problems with this (there are many more):
- We know that clinicians are typically poor searchers, so there's a handicap from the start.
- The way clinician's select which papers/documents to look at is problematic based on a number of factors.
- From our experience of Q&A (answering over 10,000 clinical questions) we know the average number of references to answer a question is over two. So, that suggests that clinicians will need to open 2+ documents and read them to find the information they need - highly inefficient, especially if the document is long.
So, to me, any solution is to go back to first principles - in this case a clinician with a clinical question. What do they want? An answer. I'm hoping that's not controversial - it seems obvious to me.
To reiterate, imagine you're a busy clinician and have a clinical question, what would you prefer:
- A robust answer.
- A list of 10-20 results, any number of which may contain all or part of your answer.
If you're one of the people that thinks the latter - please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) as I'd love to understand your perspective better
Anyway, moving on to the notion of delivering an answer - this is where it gets complicated but also interesting. I firmly believe that we shouldn't shy away from a challenge, not one that's so important as this. With the experience gained in TRIP (with search and Q&A) I actually think that the issue is manageable.
Basically, I'm planning on building a system that will take a clinical question and deliver an answer.
However, one thing for sure, it's too big for TRIP to do it on it's own. So, we've started by getting together a small group of people representing organisations who have a vested interest in getting this right. Those who share in the vision. To me, the biggest challenge will be managing the disparate bodies - from the small to the very large.
If I can pull this off, we've got every chance of making an industry-wide change for the best.