NHS Evidence (boo) vs Guidelines Finder (hurrah)

In Information industry, search engines, Website reviews on September 2, 2009 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , ,

I haven’t really got into NHS Evidence yet, so maybe I’m missing something, but it all seems something of nightmare.

I want to look for guidelines, as you do, if you’re a medical informationy whatnot thingy. Let’s say I was looking for lower back pain and related conditions. The search “Low back or lower back or spinal pain or back ache or backache or Spondylolisthesis or scoliosis or Sciatica or “Spinal stenosis” or Lumbago” gave 1320 ‘guidelines’ (i.e. using the Guidelines filter) in NHS Evidence, 208 of which are apparently from NICE. This is silly. There’s no way that there are 1320 guidelines out there, or 208 NICE guidelines. In fact, when I look through a few of the results many of the hits were duplicates or ‘empty’ references. Do I really want to spend my time going though 1320 hits for a handful of useful guidelines. No, is the answer to that.

Now then, if I searched with the same terms in the good old fashioned Guidelines Finder (now a ‘specialist collection’), I get 47 hits. Forty seven useful and relevant (for the most part) hits, something I can quickly browse though and extract the few guidelines I actually want. Perfect. Does the job.

Therefore Guidelines Finder, at least for this common situation, is better than NHS Evidence. Much better. But Guidelines Finder might be under threat from the monster that is NHS Evidence. On the front page of Guidelines Finder they write: This collection is now NHS Evidence – national library of guidelines, and you will continue to be able to access all the content and features. The existing url for the collection will remain for now, but is likely to change later in the year as the specialist collections become fully integrated into the NHS Evidence portal. “Fully integrated” – sounds scary.

Now I know that NHS Evidence and the specialist collections are fundamentally different technologies, and both may have their uses, but in the age of information overload the collections rule – don’t you think? A request to NICE – please keep the specialist collections.

6 Responses to “NHS Evidence (boo) vs Guidelines Finder (hurrah)”

  1. Sigh – no posts for ages and then two in a few minutes.

    Fair points – reminds of something else I need to blog about. It is NHS Evidence related but worth a post to itself.

    Fully integrated actually sounds pretty positive – it implies the continued existence of the Specialist Collections. If nothing else NHSE clearly need to keep the guidelines finder running so they can use it as a control test set.

  2. Yes, sorry about that, insert obvious comment here about London buses…

  3. We should get “Next post due in 5 minutes” type indicators. They could be completely random lies just like the ones on the real buses (a bitter bus user writes)

  4. Hi Eli,

    Thanks for the good work on the SL. I am sure these must be very stressful times.

    I think you have some good questions – probably ones better answered by asking the healthcare professionals!

    There was some evaluation of the Specialist Libraries I believe? It is certainly an area that warrants more investigation. There is no doubt that the potential is there when combined with the kind of promotional clout NHSE are going to wield for the SL to make a major contribution.

  5. The search functionality does leave something to be desired and you capture it well, Alan L. There is a lot of duplication and gibberish ‘abstracts’ that require a follow through click before being included or rejected. I hope that future upgrades are substantial.

    My opinion on the position of the ‘specialist collections’ is that unfortunately they are a bit shaky-I agree with Eli. I’ve had some contact with a couple of clinical leads and, in my opinion, they seem to want to efface the role of the informaticist in favour of the ‘rebranding’ (that took place in April) that slants it towards ‘hard core’ medics. I think we knew this would happen when they took away the word ‘libraries’ from the names of the specialist resources. Who does NHS Evidence serve? Please don’t tell me that the average medic (including nurses and allied health professionals) is comfortable with ‘hazard ratios’ and ‘confidence intervals’. They’ve thrown out plain English which I think is a big mistake and will limit the audience.

    How do the Annual Evidence Updates actually serve the users? It is a static bibliography, maybe with commentary if you are lucky. Do they ever get compiled, cumulatively? I sincerely wonder what the feedback has been on them-perhaps they’ve had rave reviews. Yes, you are right-evaluation is absolutely essential. Are a lot of people blase? You will hear from the ‘love it’ and ‘hate it’ crowds. You will need to work for the ‘meh’ crowd to tell you what they actually think.

  6. Loads of sense – I think people would be hugely interested to read about the world of the specialist collectionistas.

    An informal thing would be great for HLG Newsletter or indeed the CILIP magazine. A longer write up of some aspect would almost certainly be welcome in HILJ. The kind of statistical work you are talking about on numbers of reviews and so on would definitely have some interest.

    I guess we will all know more in October

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