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PubMed's Pre-Formulated EHR Search - A Great Resource for Healthcare Market Research

29 Jan 2013 | by Nancy Fabozzi
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Confused about EMRs, EHRs, PHRs, HIE, HIO, RHIO, HL7, IDC-10, LOINC, ONC, and on and on with the alphabet soup of digital health? Here’s one great resource you’ll want to get familiar with.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) is a major participant in the development and promotion of electronic health records (EHRs) and the home of the PubMed website, which provides free access to MEDLINE, “the NLM database of indexed citations and abstracts to medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, health care, and preclinical sciences journal articles”. Click here for more details on PubMed. The PubMed website offers a handy way to keep up-to-date on key government programs, citations to peer-reviewed journal articles, and other sources of information pertaining to EHRs and related aspects of health information technology by grouping key resources on one page—part of their “topic specific queries” service. The MEDLINE/PubMed Search & Electronic Health Record Information Resources website features a variety of useful features for sophisticated researchers and novices alike, including links to additional information resources from NLM, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and other government agencies, associations and foundations, international organizations, and more.

One of the most helpful tools on the site is a link to a very convenient, pre-formulated search of journal literature indexed in PubMed as well as details on the (very comprehensive) search strategy. This feature can really save time when you just want a quick look at the latest articles (citations are listed chronologically; PubMed is updated five days per week).

Please be aware that, for the most part, this search will not bring you into the full-text articles. However, some citations will have links to the publisher’s website where you can either purchase the article in full-text or, in some cases, retrieve the article for free. (PubMed’s electronic health record search results page indicates that 4,994 free, full-text articles related to the EHR search are available in PubMed Central.) If the citation does not have a link to a full-text source, you can save the citation and retrieve the article from a medical library.

PubMed offers a variety of ways to narrow a search, including searching only for free full-text, full text available, abstract included, or by other criteria. Refining a PubMed search is something you’ll want to learn how to do given the volume of articles. As I said, the search strategy is very comprehensive and really covers a range of health IT issues, not just EHRs in the strictest sense. Included in this concept is health information exchange (HIE), personal health records (PHRs), and numerous other areas. For example, the electronic health record pre-formulated search brings up a total of 37,388 citations, beginning with the first article from 1957 (something about “health cards, in Portuguese…) to the most recent article added as of today (January 29, 2013) on enhancing patient safety with EHR usability. (BTW, this looks like a great article! Patient safety is one of the key issues I’m tracking this year. Here’s the cite and link - Middleton B, Bloomrosen M, Dente MA, et al. Enhancing patient safety and quality of care by improving the usability of electronic health record systems: recommendations from AMIA. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2013 Jan 25. [Epub ahead of print]).

Another really great feature of this pre-formulated search is a bar chart showing results by year. This provides a quick look at how the topic is tracking in terms of numbers of articles published in the peer-reviewed literature. Looking at this graphic, it is immediately apparent to see the dramatic uptick in health IT articles over the years. Just for fun, I ran some numbers to see look at the increase in articles over a few ten-year periods. In 1980, there were 87 articles based on the search strategy, which increased to 621 articles in 1990, amounting to a compound annual growth rate of 21.7 percent. This seems logical as this is really the period when PC’s became ubiquitous throughout industry. From 1990 to 2000, when there were 1,114 articles, the annual growth rate declined (or stabilized) to 6.3 percent. Looking at the period of 2002 to 2012, we can see that the annual growth rate in the number of articles has increased a bit, but not much, to 7 percent (see chart). Not surprisingly, the period from 2009 to 2010 saw a 16.7 percent increase in articles, undoubtedly influenced by HITECH.


Anyway, the main point is, NLM’s PubMed is a great resource to keep up with studies on health IT. Even though much of the literature is targeted to a “professional” audience, business researchers should be aware of the value of medical literature as a an important tool for tracking industry trends. While a PubMed search will not link to citations of proprietary market research studies that provide in-depth market and business analysis like we do at Frost & Sullivan, a review of the clinical medical literature is a key component of any thorough market analysis pertaining to the healthcare industry.