Date of this Version
Healthcare professionals and lay people are challenged by the availability and plethora of health information particularly web based which has become increasingly important when diagnosing, advising of preventive measures and in prescribing future care. Access to accurate, reliable and current information in a useable format is becoming essential particularly at the point of care and if patients are to be part of that process.
Method: Three volunteers were observed carrying out three separate queries to better evaluate the search engine. Ease of access, user experience, relevance of results and an analysis of the usability method were evaluated. (Appendix 1 Blank Observation Sheet). Participants were questioned after the task and asked to grade the usability of the database, its layout and help facilities. (Appendix 3 Questionnaire Sheet).
Results: Volunteers experienced a wide range of difficulties in accessing relevant information reflecting their medical and IT background. The professional clinician accessed results more quickly, but accessed other databases when information on a particular query was difficult to find and then use this information to return to PubMed.
Conclusions: PubMed is a specialized medical database that is particularly suitable for medical professionals as all articles are peer reviewed whereas other search engines for example, Google have a wider search base, but their relevance and authenticity is more questionable. It is suggested that lay users should explore multiple search engines to search different types of health information and medical knowledge for their own needs as articles containing less specialised vocabulary can be accessed.