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Researchers at the University of Oxford have developed a search filter in MEDLINE (OvidSP) to assist healthcare professionals to promptly identify research studies relevant to particular areas in primary care. The findings have recently been published in Family Practice.

How can healthcare professionals improve primary research at the point of care

NIHR School for Primary Care Research investigators Peter Gill, Kay Wang and Carl Heneghan from the Nuffield Department for Primary Care Health Sciences, and Nia Roberts from the Bodleian Library, recognised the need of health care professionals for a search filter when looking for relevant primary care articles, particularly during short consultation times.

Although evidence syntheses tools have been developed, clinicians still require tools to search for primary research at the point-of-care. The publication suggests that there are several primary care journals that act as repositories but relevant research is also being published in general medical journals, making the isolation of key information difficult. 

Researchers reviewed 9028 articles and found 371 studies relevant to primary care. These studies were used to develop several filters which were tested against a set of articles on two common primary care conditions. The best performing combination search filter works well in reducing the number of irrelevant papers retrieved in a database search if a busy clinician needs to focus on research relevant to primary care.

"We conducted a search of MEDLINE (OvidSP) for articles published in five core medical journals at five yearly intervals. We identified a gold standard set of primary care relevant articles which was divided into two subsets. The first subset was used to identify frequently occurring words and phrases through textual analysis. Search filters were developed from these words and phrases and internally validated against records in the second subset. We evaluated the filters performance in a search for articles on two common primary care conditions in MEDLINE (OvidSP)" say researchers.

As finding articles relevant to primary care is difficult, we developed a search filter to help busy clinicians find the best evidence to improve patient care. Researchers conducting systematic reviews can also use this tested tool to find relevant studies completed in general practice
- Dr Peter Gill

The resulting paper entitled 'Development of a search filter for identifying studies completed in primary care' was published in Family Practice on 18 October 2014.

Dr Peter Gill is now based at the University of Alberta, Canada.