PubMed Health

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 2 July 2017


See also PubMed - MEDLINE | Medline - Coverage, Interfaces, Searchability | MedlinePlus (U.S.) | PubMed Alternative Interfaces | PubMedCentral Canada

"PubMed Health is a free resource which helps all members of the health care team from health professionals to patients and families locate clinical effectiveness research; [it] includes an online database that gathers together systematic reviews that can help to determine whether a treatment or prevention method works; weigh benefit and harm of intervention; show how much is unknown about this type of care..."

PubMed Health (see trifold handout), released by the National Library of Medicine in 2011, is one of the more interesting projects undertaken by the NLM. It bills itself as a clinical effectiveness research website and, via its Twitter feed, as a website explaining "what works" in medicine. As of 2014, there seems to be a real lack of awareness of the service. For some health librarians, PubMed Health is a consumer version of PubMed with links to MedlinePlus. PubMed Health is now well into its NLM mandate, and I can’t think of any source of information about human health that is quite like it – except perhaps the Cochrane Collaboration’s consumer summaries.

What is it?

  • PubMed Health is a free resource that provides information for consumers and clinicians on prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions. PubMed Healthspecializes in reviews of clinical effectiveness research with easy-to-read summaries for consumers as well as full technical reports.
  • PubMed Health answers the question: “What works in health and medical care?" Put simply, PubMed Health provides integrated access to 18,000 clinical effectiveness reviews. It organizes these clinical effectiveness research results for you and provides links to full text, summary information for consumers and clinicians, and other research.

See PubMed Health's Consumer Summaries

What is clinical effectiveness?

PubMed Health is based on systematic reviews of clinical trials, showing what treatments and prevention methods have been proven to work, and what remains unknown. The PubMed Health database has been built in partnership with the US's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), and The Cochrane Collaboration, among others.

In order to assess whether treatments work, all important effects need to be studied. This includes possible harms as well as possible benefits. Clinical or health effects are sometimes called patient-relevant outcomes. Systematic reviews often show which treatments and prevention methods have been proven to work as well as what remains unknown. Being clear about what is certain is an important part of informed decision-making, and evidence-based health care. Systematic reviews are the basis for what is often called evidence-based medicine or health care. And they are important for pointing to areas where more research is needed. Other names for this kind of research are "evidence syntheses", "comparative effectiveness reviews", and "health technology assessments".

Partners in PubMed Health

PubMed Health has partnered with Cochrane and the following groups:

PubMed Health is a metasearch tool

I’d describe PubMed Health as a metasearch tool that gathers evidence from the above sites to see clinical studies and “what works” in human health. Searchers can locate systematic reviews of clinical trials – in other words, clinical effectiveness reviews to show what treatments work and what is unknown – and other syntheses of medical knowledge. One major benefit of PubMed Health (which might make it popular) is that any search performed on PubMed Health also runs in PubMed. A filter is used to identify articles that might be systematic reviews. It includes articles from before 2003.

If that weren’t enough PubMed Health uses a medical encyclopedia and medication information from A.D.A.M. Education and the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists.

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