When looking for information within healthcare, professionals usually rely on a medical search engine, of which PubMed is by far the most popular. Though by iterating with several professionals, we started noticing patterns between which need a medical professional had, and the search engine they used.
PubMed is the most popular medical search engine and it has been active since 1996. It is free to use and one can search over 34M articles, MeSH, authors and their citations. The interesting part with PubMed is:
- MEDLINE. Containing citations from journals indexed with MeSH
- PubMed Central: containing 8 million full-text references from PubMed.
- Bookshelf: an archive of books and reports within life sciences and biomedical fields.
According to our survey, PubMed is mainly used for author lookup, finding new publication through alerts for pharmacovigilance and drug safety monitoring activities, and screening activities on drug discovery
For more details, we’ve written a full article in how PubMed works behind the curtains
ScienceDirect, owned by Elsevier, is a popular choice among academics and students. It provides access to over 18 million articles, 4,000 academic journals, 30,000 ebooks, and conference proceedings.
Its main focus is the browsing in Elsevier-owned material, as the majority results in closed access articles not accessible to the public.
Web of Science
Web of Science, owned by Clarivate, is referred to as the citation index. Extremely similar to ScienceDirect as the main group we identified was academics and students. Though, while the first one focuses on browsing Elsevier’s material, Web of Science offers broader and extensive citation analysis.
This was the primary choice for all those interested in impact factor, journal ranking, citation index scoring, and citation analysis.
The Cochrane Collaboration was established in 1993 and it is an international, independent, non-profit organization that aims to promote evidence-informed health decision-making by producing systematic reviews of healthcare interventions.
Since their reviews are considered to be the gold standard in evidence-based healthcare, every medical professional we talked to addressed Cochrane as the highest quality source of information for its reliability and evidence-based practices.
Google Scholar is the academic search engine of Google. It goes beyond just searching medical literature, as it scouts for all published literature: citations, books, proceedings, PhD thesis and master’s degree thesis, etc. Surprisingly the only groups within Life Science that we have identified using Google Scholar at high intensity were Marketing and Sales.
The main issue of Google Scholar was the fact that it is in fact a black box. Every search is interpreted semantically without giving an explanation on the results that are retrieved. And such an explanation is usually required during an audit. This is also the main reason why Google isn’t used in Clinical Evidence and Pharmacovigilance.
PapersHive is the most recent medical search engine listed here. Launched in Beta in June 2022 and reached the official launch on February 27th 2023. It is a layer on top of PubMed, as PapersHive is daily synchronized with PubMed and MEDLINE data to which it adds analytics for Key Opinion Leaders, Drug Trends and Protein Insights.
The majority of use cases in PapersHive can be divided into two macro groups: discovery and analytics. The first one focuses on drug discovery, drug safety monitoring, pharmacovigilance and reporting activities, while the second one focuses on analyzing trends and patterns in key opinion leaders, drugs and proteins.
Even if it sounds as a cliche, there is no such thing as a the perfect Medical Search Engine. There is though the best one according to a well defined need. Here our list:
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