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Searching for Answers to Clinical Questions Using Google Versus Evidence-Based Summary Resources: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Study

Kim, Sarang MD; Noveck, Helaine MPH; Galt, James EdM; Hogshire, Lauren MD; Willett, Laura MD; O’Rourke, Kerry MLS

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000244
Research Reports

Purpose To compare the speed and accuracy of answering clinical questions using Google versus summary resources.

Method In 2011 and 2012, 48 internal medicine interns from two classes at Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who had been trained to use three evidence-based summary resources, performed four-minute computer searches to answer 10 clinical questions. Half were randomized to initiate searches for answers to questions 1 to 5 using Google; the other half initiated searches using a summary resource. They then crossed over and used the other resource for questions 6 to 10. They documented the time spent searching and the resource where the answer was found. Time to correct response and percentage of correct responses were compared between groups using t test and general estimating equations.

Results Of 480 questions administered, interns found answers for 393 (82%). Interns initiating searches in Google used a wider variety of resources than those starting with summary resources. No significant difference was found in mean time to correct response (138.5 seconds for Google versus 136.1 seconds for summary resource; P = .72). Mean correct response rate was 58.4% for Google versus 61.5% for summary resource (mean difference −3.1%; 95% CI −10.3% to 4.2%; P = .40).

Conclusions The authors found no significant differences in speed or accuracy between searches initiated using Google versus summary resources. Although summary resources are considered to provide the highest quality of evidence, improvements to allow for better speed and accuracy are needed.

Dr. Kim is clinical associate professor, Department of Medicine, Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Ms. Noveck is research teaching specialist, Department of Medicine, Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Mr. Galt is curriculum development/instructional design specialist, Robert Wood Johnson Library of the Health Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Dr. Hogshire is clinical instructor, Department of Medicine, Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Dr. Willett is associate professor, Department of Medicine, Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Ms. O’Rourke is library director, Robert Wood Johnson Library of the Health Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: This study was approved by the Rutgers University institutional review board on March 11, 2013.

Previous presentations: This study was presented as a short communication at the Northeast Group on Educational Affairs annual meeting on April 13, 2013, in New York, New York.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Kim, CAB Suite 2300, 125 Paterson St., New Brunswick, NJ 08901; telephone: (732) 235-7253; fax: (732) 235-7144; e-mail: sarang.kim@rutgers.edu.

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges