Trip Database Blog

Liberating the literature


August 2008


Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Web 2.0 and medicine

For a number of years web 2.0 has been a buzzword. I’ve been caught up in the hype and explored it’s use in a variety of situations, with limited success.

It would appear I’m not alone. In the web 2.0 world that relates to health professionals there appears to be no clear ‘big winners’. Sure, there are lots of examples of ‘web activities’, for instance:

But none of these, as far as I can tell, have made in-roads into mainstream healthcare. As such, I’m starting to have my doubts. Has the hype caused me ignore one of my own rules – DO NOT BE LEAD BY TECHNOLOGY, BE LEAD BY THE USER?

It would appear that I’m not alone in my scepticism and this has just been addressed in the Health Care Blog, with the post ‘Balloon Mania: Happy Birthday Health 2.0‘. I’m not won over by the anecdote used but it does remind me that it’s very early days…


I saw this feature on the BBC news website and liked it, so I dug around and found out about Apture. In a way this is my trial. it allows you (the website controller) to highlight sections of text and it will pull through appropriate links to content, so some examples:

  • Ligaments
  • Liverpool FC
  • Half Man Half Biscuit
  • Olympic Games

Hopefully, if this works, various embedded link-outs will appears.

Fingers crossed.

TRIPanswers: sneak preview

We’re getting there with TRIPanswers and hope to have something by September, a slight delay, but that seems traditional. I’ve said very little about TRIP answers but will give a bit more detail here and over the next few weeks.

In a nutshell TRIPanswers is a repository of clinical Q&As.

We hope our efforts will see a long-term dream of mine realised – a space on the internet where clinicians/information specialists can freely share their Q&As with others. With that aim in mind we will launch with 8 Q&A services around the globe, all willing to share their Q&As.

At the foot of this post is a screenshot of the homepage (click on image to make it full size) and I’ll highlight a number of the key features:

  • A list of most recently added Q&As.
  • To the left of each Q&A is a multicoloured cube with the letters s, a & c underneath. This represents the quality score that each Q&A receives: s = search, a = appraisal and c = confidence.
  • Tag cloud. Each question is tagged and these aggregate to form a tag cloud. This can work independently, to allow browsing of the repository. However, it can also work with the search, to easily narrow down to the users area of interest.
  • Tag Cloud of Clinical Uncertainty. A personal favourite, this is a sub-section of the site, specifically for questions where the evidence is poor. This links in from my work with DUETs but is different in two main ways. Firstly, it does not restrict entries to therapies. Secondly, the entry point (uncertainty) is more pragmatic. But the aim is pretty much the same – highlight areas where the research evidence is poor.

Another key aim of the site is to encourage interaction and user participation. We have made it easy for users to leave comments on each Q&A and we believe this can only improve the quality of each Q&A.

In summary, I would say that TRIPanswers is a repository of Q&As which aims to interact with users to boost and improve the content still further.

Research access and the internet

An interesting article ‘Easy does it‘ posted on the Rough Type blog. The main thrust of the article is that as online access has actually narrowed access to core publications, thereby restricting attention to the high-status journals. The effect of this is to speed up consensus and narrow debate.

It also makes the amusing point that poor indexing can be helpful as it widens the chances of discovering new research!

More users = better access to evidence

The aim of TRIP is to allow users to easily access high quality research to help guide their clinical pratice.

Many years ago I was thrilled when we got searched 25,000 times in a month – that’s a lot of searches and a lot of clinicians with evidence to help support their practice.

Over the years TRIP has improved considerably and usage has shot up. In July we acheived another record month for usage. In March we broke through the million searches per month and for July (4 month later) we’ve added another 200,000 searches, reaching 1,210,001 searches. This was no doubt helped by our speed improvements which saw over 300,000 searches in the last week of July!!! I’ve graphed our growth (using weekly search volume) since we went live, less than 2 years ago. That’s an awful lot of people getting access to an awful lot of evidence…

Blog at

Up ↑