To compare the ability of users of 2 medical search engines, InfoClinique and the Trip database, to provide correct answers to clinical questions and to explore the perceived effects of the tools on the clinical decision-making process.
Three family medicine units of the family medicine program of the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University in Quebec city, Que.
Fifteen second-year family medicine residents.
Residents generated 30 structured questions about therapy or preventive treatment (2 questions per resident) based on clinical encounters. Using an Internet platform designed for the trial, each resident answered 20 of these questions (their own 2, plus 18 of the questions formulated by other residents, selected randomly) before and after searching for information with 1 of the 2 search engines. For each question, 5 residents were randomly assigned to begin their search with InfoClinique and 5 with the Trip database.
Main outcome measures
The ability of residents to provide correct answers to clinical questions using the search engines, as determined by third-party evaluation. After answering each question, participants completed a questionnaire to assess their perception of the engine’s effect on the decision-making process in clinical practice.
Of 300 possible pairs of answers (1 answer before and 1 after the initial search), 254 (85%) were produced by 14 residents. Of these, 132 (52%) and 122 (48%) pairs of answers concerned questions that had been assigned an initial search with InfoClinique and the Trip database, respectively. Both engines produced an important and similar absolute increase in the proportion of correct answers after searching (26% to 62% for InfoClinique, for an increase of 36%; 24% to 63% for the Trip database, for an increase of 39%; P = .68). For all 30 clinical questions, at least 1 resident produced the correct answer after searching with either search engine. The mean (SD) time of the initial search for each question was 23.5 (7.6) minutes with InfoClinique and 22.3 (7.8) minutes with the Trip database (P = .30). Participants’ perceptions of each engine’s effect on the decision-making process were very positive and similar for both search engines.
Family medicine residents’ ability to provide correct answers to clinical questions increased dramatically and similarly with the use of both InfoClinique and the Trip database. These tools have strong potential to increase the quality of medical care.