Answers to questions posed during daily patient care are more likely to be answered by UpToDate than PubMed

J Med Internet Res. 2008 Oct 3;10(4):e29. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1012.


Background: UpToDate and PubMed are popular sources for medical information. Data regarding the efficiency of PubMed and UpToDate in daily medical care are lacking.

Objective: The purpose of this observational study was to describe the percentage of answers retrieved by these information sources, comparing search results with regard to different medical topics and the time spent searching for an answer.

Methods: A total of 40 residents and 30 internists in internal medicine working in an academic medical center searched PubMed and UpToDate using an observation portal during daily medical care. The information source used for searching and the time needed to find an answer to the question were recorded by the portal. Information was provided by searchers regarding the topic of the question, the situation that triggered the question, and whether an answer was found.

Results: We analyzed 1305 patient-related questions sent to PubMed and/or UpToDate between October 1, 2005 and March 31, 2007 using our portal. A complete answer was found in 594/1125 (53%) questions sent to PubMed or UpToDate. A partial or full answer was obtained in 729/883 (83%) UpToDate searches and 152/242 (63%) PubMed searches (P < .001). UpToDate answered more questions than PubMed on all major medical topics, but a significant difference was detected only when the question was related to etiology (P < .001) or therapy (P = .002). Time to answer was 241 seconds (SD 24) for UpToDate and 291 seconds (SD 7) for PubMed.

Conclusions: Specialists and residents in internal medicine generally use less than 5 minutes to answer patient-related questions in daily care. More questions are answered using UpToDate than PubMed on all major medical topics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / standards*
  • Internal Medicine
  • Internet*
  • Medical Informatics / standards*
  • Medicine
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians
  • PubMed / organization & administration
  • PubMed / standards*
  • Specialization