When Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practitioners Use PubMed: Responses of 18 Practitioners to Searching and Retrieving Knowledge in Pubmed

Mia Quint-Rapoport

Full Text: PPT


This presentation will present and discuss the results of a study that looked at how complementary and alternative medicine practitioners (CAM) used the Open Access online index Pubmed (www.pubmed.com). Pubmed is an online index of medical and life sciences research and literature developed by the National Library of Medicine. While it was developed originally for use by scientific and medical researchers, Pubmed is now employed by a variety of users in a variety of contexts all over the world. This study examines the responses of 18 CAM practitioners to the features and functions available in Pubmed that help facilitate searching and information management, as well as their engagement with the scientific literature.

Methods: In this study, 10 chiropractors, 7 massage therapists, and a homeopath (N=18), 11 with prior research training and 7 without, were taken through a 2-hour introductory session with PubMed and introduced to between 6 and 9 tools and features of this life sciences online index, including tools for information retrieval, information access, and information management. The participants were asked, in the process, to provide feedback on the value of each tool or feature in terms of their information needs, which were ranked as positive, positive with emphasis, negative or indifferent.
Results: The participants in this study found much value within each of the three types of tools and features, with those less well regarded including the MeSH and the Bookshelf. The participants identified areas of strong (e.g., orthopedic tests) and weak (e.g., biochemistry) comprehension, as well as areas of critical regard (e.g., methodology) for the research they selected. There was universal support for greater access to the complete articles, beyond the approximately 15 percent that are open access. The abstract that PubMed provided was felt to be necessary in selecting literature to read, but entirely inadequate for both evaluating and learning from the research. Thus, the restrictions and charges the participants faced in accessing the full text were points of frustration to them.

Conclusions: The study found strong indications of PubMeds value for the professional development of Complementary and Alternative Medicine practitioners, while recommending that the National Library of Medicine increase the proportion of the literature that users can freely access by tapping into the published research that is being archived by authors in institutional archives and other websites.

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