Answering clinical questions is at the heart of the TRIP Database.  We’ve been answering clinical questions for over 10 years and answered well over 10,000.  Most of these questions have been answered using a standard methodology:

  • Receive and clarify the question
  • Conduct a search
  • Read and appraise the articles
  • Write and answer
  • Post answer on the website

This can frequently be time-consuming and therefore relatively expensive.  Search systems, even the TRIP Database, doesn’t answer questions – it returns articles that may help the clinician answer their question.

There are alternate models of answering questions and from the research evidence the most consistent source of answers for clinicians is their own colleagues.  But, there are half-way houses and my current favourite is facilitated by a service called StackOverflow which is a Q&A service for those involved in IT.  The company behind StackOverflow have recently been increasing the availability of the underlying software to power other Q&A systems and this was featured, today, on the ReadWriteWeb blog

One of the first non-IT uses for StackOverflow that I was aware of was GasExchange, a Q&A service for anaesthesia (check it out, it’s great).  It’s been running for many months and has an active community.  I’d love to see this sort of thing happen for other specialities – including primary care.