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Focus On: STM : Keeping Dr. Google Away

Elsevier's ClinicalKey search service is designed to tailor content to physicians' day-to-day workflows.

September 2012 By James Sturdivant
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In an age of instant information access, professional and scholarly publishers have to get smarter when developing products to fit audience workflows. Simply having a large catalogue of titles is no longer enough; from finance to education to STM, users expect information to be tailored to their day-to-day needs and priorities. Meeting these requirements can spell the difference between a successful product and a dud.

In the medical field, semantic search technology has enabled targeted features that put information before users in new ways. Elsevier, the global publishing giant, has found a way to repurpose its vast stores of books and medical journals (constituting 25 percent of the world's research, according to the company) with a focus on the way doctors seek and use information in the course of providing clinical care.

"On the health science side, what we saw was we had this amazing data, but we found that practicing physicians, clinical physicians in the hospital weren't able to access it, to pull it out in a way that was as useful as it might have been," says Jim Donohue, Managing Director, GCR/Elsevier Health Sciences. "The days of a doctor thumbing through a large medical textbook are over."

The key, Donohue says, was to build in discoverability—though this is easier said than done. Exactly how do doctors search for information? What search results are most valuable to them, and when? The company talked to more than 2,000 doctors, had physicians keep diaries of how they used information and conducted over 20 focus groups in an attempt to understand exactly how content was used.

"We realized we had the content but probably not in the format that we needed," Donohue says. The result was ClinicalKey, an online search portal drawing from all of Elsevier's clinical content: every book, journal and content delivery mechanism related to patient care. Over 20 million pieces of content are semantically tagged down to the sentence level and linked to a proprietary taxonomy. "When a physician enters a search term into ClinicalKey, they get a clinically relevant response, versus a Google response or a Wiki­pedia response, where heaven knows what you get, there is no curating at all."

Launched in April, the service is "well on its way to meeting our expectations for the first year," Donohue says. ClinicalKey works on a two-tiered subscription model. A "flex model," which allows access to all content, ties price to usage (though charges are never increased more than 5 percent in a year). Such a model allows institutions to not feel they are paying for vast amounts of material they would never access. "They want to pay for the content that is relevant to [a particular] clinical workflow," Donohue says. "We are able to reflect that in the price."

 

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