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The role of title, metadata and abstract in identifying clinically relevant journal articles.
Access to current clinical information involves searches of bibliographic databases, such as MEDLINE, and subsequent evaluation of retrieval results for relevance to a specific clinical situation and quality of the reported research. We establish the amount of information that needs to be provided by an information retrieval system to assist healthcare practitioners in identifying clinically relevant information and evaluating its potential strength of evidence. We find 92% of titles informative enough for a practitioner to correctly classify publications as clinical, but not sufficient for classification of research quality. We suggest automatic organization of retrieval results into strength of evidence categories to supplement title-based judgments and provide quick access to the abstracts of the most promising articles. We find information in the abstracts sufficient to identify articles potentially immediately useful for clinical decision support. These findings are important to the design of information retrieval systems supporting small, low-bandwidth handheld computers.