Googling for EBM

google   Have you ever felt guilty Googling for an answer to a medical question rather than looking it up in an evidence-based database? This study by Kim et. al. compares the time it takes to find a reliable answer to a student MKSAP clinical vignette using Google vs an evidence-based-summary resource, such as EBSCO’s DynaMed, Wiley’s Essential Evidence Plus, and Elsevier’s FirstConsult. They found no difference in the percent of correct answers found or in the time it took to get the correct answer between Google and the summary resources (and that likely did not take into account the fact that for many summary resources, unless they’re pre-opened, the user has to spend additional time to get through the login process) . This is a welcome study for all the Medical Googlers out there, but the important thing to keep in mind is that when getting the answer through Google, unlike a pre-screened summary resource, the onus is on the searcher to filter out low-evidence results. In this study, although most of the Googled answers were from evidence-based or physician-reviewed resources, 23% of the answers were from Wikipedia, which is not physician-reviewed and very easily changeable by anyone. The answers, it seems, were still correct, and when answering MKSAP questions not as much is at stake of course, but one would hope that when dealing with decisions involving patients, if Google is used, care is taken to be sure the seemingly correct answer has evidence behind it. Given the results, it may be reasonable to include “Google searching techniques” in the evidence-based medicine courses that we teach to our medical students to make sure that they know how to evaluate the reliability of what a non-officially-medical search engine might bring them. — Alexsey Tentler, MD

Kim s, Noveck H, Galt J, Hogshire L, Willett L  O’Rourke K. Searching for Answers to Clinical Questions Using Google Versus Evidence-Based Summary Resources: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Study Academic Medicine, 2014; 89(6)940-3

Link to Article


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