Trip Database Blog

Liberating the literature

New content…

Trip’s aim is to support health professionals to easily obtain answers to their clinical questions. This requires (1) clever systems to interpret search queries and (2) then find the most appropriate evidence. New evidence is published all the time and an important task is getting it added to Trip in a timely manner!  This is done in two main ways:

  • Automatically – the majority of our content is added automatically
  • Manually – where automation isn’t possible we have to undertake a manual trawl of the sites and look for new content. This is typically done on a monthly basis

We’ve just uploaded our latest manual content which typically takes 24 hours from adding to the site to being searchable!

As well as existing sources we constantly scan the web for new, quality, content (often helped with ‘tip offs’ from our users). This month we’ve added two new publications:

Trip, getting better every day…

Do you use LibKey? Better access to full-text

Trip has now integrated LibKey in to Trip. LibKey is an amazing tool and it makes Trip even better at supporting our users to obtain full-text articles.

One of the traditional methods of obtaining full-text has been to use something called a link resolver. This aims to link a user with their institutions full-text holdings. For instance if a University subscribes to a journal, the idea is that we send the user to the full-text journal article instead of the PubMed abstract. This is great, to a point. The downside is that it’s dumb! By that it doesn’t know if the institution actually subscribes to the journal – we simply insert the link out (using the link resolver) for every journal article! So, if the University doesn’t subscribe you get a disappointed user.

LibKey, on the other hand, is smart! It knows which institutions have which subscriptions and over which time-period. So, now more misleading linkouts.

For this to work we need to link your institutions LibKey details with Trip and away we go. Fingers crossed your institution uses LibKey!

SmartSearch v2 on the road to more automation in evidence synthesis

Our original SmartSearch worked very well. A user selected a couple of documents and we’d suggested closely related articles, based on clickstream data. This worked really well, when we had clickstream data, often we didn’t.  So, that was a problem.

Our new system will work on a similar principle but will include citation data and semantic similarity data – which articles cite which other articles and which articles are semantically similar to other articles? This will allow for a very rich network of connected articles; in turn allowing users to easily find other articles of interest. Think about this, instead of scrolling through loads of articles the system should overcome much of that. Find 1 or 2 articles that interest you – our system finds the rest.

Testing has been really positive.

Initially, this will be just for Covid-19 data but when the new site is released (?September) we’ll look to incorporate it in to the main Trip.

Much of this work was inspired by speeding up evidence reviews. An important second component of this work is to allow rapid quantitative synthesis. This is being planned and we’re currently exploring funding opportunities to get this off the ground. The intention with this is to create SR quality reviews all done within a handful of hours. Longer than our fully-automated system but much nuanced and could be an important step to full automation.

Apart from ‘usual business’ and Covid, what is Trip up to?

What is Trip up to, apart from:

We are actually incredibly busy recoding the site! Much of the site’s code is over ten years old (ancient in internet terms) and, due to the way the site has evolved, the underlying code structure is a bit of a mess. This is a 6-month project and we’re probably two-thirds of the way through. The advantages will be massive and will make future developments much easier to implement.

We have also been doing some amazing work around easily identifying content. This is a much more powerful version of out SmartSearch and uses clever things like knowledge graphs. While work started before Covid (?BC) the crisis has created funding opportunities and – via our work with Oxford – has reinforced the usefulness of the approach we’re taking. This work will also form the basis of a larger bid to fund a rapid-review system that can generate systematic review quality answers.

Oh yes, finally, a few years ago we started working with a couple of academic centres to explore improving our search results. It’s taken a while (so much so I forgot about it) but they have recently shared their results – and they have been able to massively improve the search results ‘in the lab’. So, when we’ve got all the coding redone we’ll start to test it on the live Trip.

So, while on the surface nothing much is changing, behind the scenes things are changing massively – as ever Trip is always an exciting environment to work in!

What are health professionals searching for in relation to COVID-19? Update 3

It’s been two weeks since the last update, so what’s changed?

Well, one thing that hasn’t changed is that around 50% of searches are still just looking, generally, for Covid-19 information ie no additional search terms; just the disease name! Oh yes, another search that’s stayed the same is that chloroquine (or hydroxychloroquine) is still the most popular search other than just the disease name.

Topics that have become more popular include:

  • pregnancy
  • PPE
  • vaccines
  • dental

Topics that have seen big increases in popularity:

  • antibiotics
  • young people

I feel I should be adding some extra value by offering some insight, but I’m really not sure what these changes mean!

What are health professionals searching for in relation to COVID-19? Update 2

What a difference a week makes!  In our previous posts generic searches for just Covid-19 (or synonyms) dominated. But things have changed dramatically – as have the number of searches, these too have increased hugely. After simple searches for the disease the top searches look like this:

  • pregnancy
  • PPE
  • diagnosis
  • interferon
  • screening
  • azithromycin
  • surgery
  • outbreak
  • vaccine
  • antibiotics

Are users getting past the need for general, background knowledge and seeking answers to more specific questions? It certainly seems that way!

What are health professionals searching for in relation to COVID-19? Update 1

Just under a week ago we posted the first list, so time for an update!

There are still lots of searches just for Covid-19 (or variants, such as coronavirus) but there are now lots more variation in frequent searches.  After simple searches for the disease (and removing country specific searches) the top searches look like this:

  1. diagnosis
  2. chloroquine
  3. treatment
  4. blood test nasal swab diagnosis
  5. ibuprofen
  6. pregnancy
  7. critical care
  8. pediatrics
  9. hydroxychloroquine
  10. symptoms
  11. vaccine
  12. interferon
  13. patient transport
  14. diarrhea
  15. nursing


Popular COVID-19 articles, changes over time

It’s been nearly a week since I posted the first blog about ‘popular’ COVID-19 articles on Trip. I thought it’d be interesting to see if the information sought changes over time and here’s the new ‘top ten’:

  1. COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). DynaMed Plus. +2 places (previously position 3)
  2. Interim guidance: public health management of cases and contacts associated with novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. BC Centre for Disease Control. -1 place
  3. Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice. PHE. -1 place
  4. Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for primary care providers in community setting. Ontario Ministry of Health. +1 place
  5. Infection prevention and control for novel coronavirus (COVID-19): interim guidance for acute healthcare settings. Government of Canada -1 place
  6. COVID-19 Registered Trials – and analysis. Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service. New entry
  7. Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for acute care. Ontario Ministry of Health. +1 place
  8. Novel Coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV). Infectious Diseases Society of America. New entry
  9. Interim clinical guidance for patients suspected of/confirmed with COVID-19 in Belgium. Sciensano. New entry
  10. COVID-19: infection prevention and control. PHE. -4 places

BTW, linked with the information needs of health professionals, we recently published an analysis of the search terms uses have used, click here to view.

What are health professionals searching for in relation to COVID-19?

We’ve analysed the search logs of Trip and we’ve had just under 10,000 searches for COVID-19 and related terms. To date, the vast majority of searches (11 of the 12 most popular searches) were simply searches for the actual disease:

  • covid
  • Coronavirus
  • covid-19
  • covid 19 OR “novel coronavirus”
  • covid 19
  • Coronavirus
  • covid19
  • Coronavirus disease 2019
  • Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
  • coronavirus or covid-19
  • covid-19

A significant number of variants for the same concept!

The non-specificity of these suggests that these were searches to familiarise people with the topic or evidence base and not in response to a specific question.

In tenth position was the first multi-term/complex search ‘coronavirus diagnosis‘. Interestingly, given the disease variants a better search might have been (covid-19 OR “novel coronavirus”) AND diagnosis – as just searching for ‘coronavirus’ brings in other coronavirus results. Searching for ‘novel coronavirus’ makes the search more specific and reduces the results from 292 to 39.

We then got a large number of repeated searches for coronavirus coupled with countries, all from the Middle East or North Africa, I have no idea why!

It’s not till the 42nd most frequent search term that we get to ‘coronavirus treatment’, followed shortly after by chloroquine coronavirus! After that we get to a real ‘long-tail’ set of results:


  • Ibuprofen
  • Interferon
  • vaccine
  • azithromycin


  • critical care
  • blood test nasal swab diagnosis
  • pediatrics
  • patient transport
  • pregnancy
  • diarrhea
  • mortality
  • mask
  • covid
  • covid
  • PPE or personal protective equipment
  • pneumonia

Over time, I suspect users will start searching for more specific searches and we plan to periodically update this list.

The main lesson for Trip is that it would be great if we can provide better support our users. We can easily create the synonyms coronavirus or covid-19. But can be transpose coronavirus to ‘novel coronavirus’?

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