Background: PubMed is the largest bibliographic index in the life sciences. It is freely available online and is used by professionals and the public to learn more about medical research. While primarily intended to serve researchers, PubMed provides an array of tools and services that can help a wider readership in the location, comprehension, evaluation, and utilization of medical research. Objective: This study sought to establish the potential contributions made by a range of PubMed tools and services to the use of the database by complementary and alternative medicine practitioners. Methods: In this study, 10 chiropractors, 7 registered massage therapists, and a homeopath (N = 18), 11 with prior research training and 7 without, were taken through a 2-hour introductory session with PubMed. The 10 PubMed tools and services considered in this study can be divided into three functions: (1) information retrieval (Boolean Search, Limits, Related Articles, Author Links, MeSH), (2) information access (Publisher Link, LinkOut, Bookshelf ), and (3) information management (History, Send To, Email Alert). Participants were introduced to between six and 10 of these tools and services. The participants were asked to provide feedback on the value of each tool or service in terms of their information needs, which was ranked as positive, positive with emphasis, negative, or indifferent. Results: The participants in this study expressed an interest in the three types of PubMed tools and services (information retrieval, access, and management), with less well-regarded tools including MeSH Database and Bookshelf. In terms of their comprehension of the research, the tools and services led the participants to reflect on their understanding as well as their critical reading and use of the research. There was universal support among the participants for greater access to complete articles, beyond the approximately 15% that are currently open access. The abstracts provided by PubMed were felt to be necessary in selecting literature to read but entirely inadequate for both evaluating and learning from the research. Thus, the restrictions and fees the participants faced in accessing full-text articles were points of frustration. Conclusions: The study found strong indications of PubMed's potential value in the professional development of these complementary and alternative medicine practitioners in terms of engaging with and understanding research. It provides support for the various initiatives intended to increase access, including a recommendation that the National Library of Medicine tap into the published research that is being archived by authors in institutional archives and through other websites. © John Willinsky, Mia Quint-Rapoport.
Willinsky, J., & Quint-Rapoport, M. (2007). How complementary and alternative medicine practitioners use PubMed. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.9.2.e19