Use of Artificial Intelligence for Medical Literature Search: Randomized Controlled Trial Using the Hackathon Format

Interact J Med Res. 2020 Mar 30;9(1):e16606. doi: 10.2196/16606.


Background: Mapping out the research landscape around a project is often time consuming and difficult.

Objective: This study evaluates a commercial artificial intelligence (AI) search engine (IRIS.AI) for its applicability in an automated literature search on a specific medical topic.

Methods: To evaluate the AI search engine in a standardized manner, the concept of a science hackathon was applied. Three groups of researchers were tasked with performing a literature search on a clearly defined scientific project. All participants had a high level of expertise for this specific field of research. Two groups were given access to the AI search engine IRIS.AI. All groups were given the same amount of time for their search and were instructed to document their results. Search results were summarized and ranked according to a predetermined scoring system.

Results: The final scoring awarded 49 and 39 points out of 60 to AI groups 1 and 2, respectively, and the control group received 46 points. A total of 20 scientific studies with high relevance were identified, and 5 highly relevant studies ("spot on") were reported by each group.

Conclusions: AI technology is a promising approach to facilitate literature searches and the management of medical libraries. In this study, however, the application of AI technology lead to a more focused literature search without a significant improvement in the number of results.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; literature review; medical information technology.