PubMed Redesign, A Physician’s Opinion

PubMed Redesign

PubMed has redesigned their interface. The changes to PubMed are outlined in the NLM Technical Bulletin. Medical Librarian’s reviewed the redesign, most of them not very pleased. Laikas has the most detailed review of them all.

Her main points of critique are:

  • Wasted screen real estate on the front page
  • History is gone from the front page. You could see your search history in a tab of it’s own on the front page, very useful to combine prior searches or to see the number of results from prior searches
  • The detail tab has also gone from the front page. This means you can’t see the details of your query or the way PubMed interpreted your search only via advanced search.
  • Her main objection is the new tab for Advanced search

    in contrast to the front page this one is full of limits, indexes and bars that should be wisely (and often not) applied. For people searching for evidence this site is not handy at all. In fact, I find it a real nuisance to use.

David Rothman also found the loss of screen real estate a waste, his post has many thought provoking comments.

To my opinion the loss of the History tab seems a terrible waste to me. I used the history tab and Mesh searches very often. Mesh is now in the drop down list of the search bar. History is now under advanced search and the results will be lost after 8 hours, and also in the results of your search as recent activity.

Nevertheless I think these small details do not have a large impact on physicians. The redesign is easier to use for a quick search by a busy clinician to quickly get information. The RSS button appears almost on every page which is an improvement compared to the previous version of PubMed on which the RSS was hard to fins. The loss of the detail tab mainly troubles medical librarians because this was useful to adapt the searches especially searches used for evidence based guidelines. A solution to this problem is the use of Ovid/Medline by medical librarians. Ovid Medline costs a lot of money. As quoted from the comments at Laikas from Patricia F. Anderson. The picture on top of this page is made by her and freely down-loadable from her blog: Emerging Technologies Librarian She also made the photo on top of this page

OVID Medline was designed by librarians and geeks for librarians and has always been a bit of a struggle for the general enduser. I see these are different tools for different tasks, and don’t expect either one to be good at both.

Moreover, as I understand the advanced search is difficult to use for this same purpose as commented by Laikas. This probably means that physicians become more depended on medical librarians for searches evaluating evidence based practices. PubMed might not be the optimal search engine for physicians designing a systematic review search or similar type of study. But to be honest I would never write a systematic review without the help of a medical librarian. For our new Dutch guidelines for ECT a medical librarian helped with the searches.

The new PubMed needs time to get used to. The redesign is useful for a quick search. Useful for the busy clinician looking for quick answers. Using PubMed for systematic reviews and guidelines as a physician is not advised, ask your medical librarian. To me the RSS button is an improvement.
A real solution to all this would be the real implementation of web 2.0 and the possibility to design your own default front page in PubMed.

Not interested in PubMed anymore, a lot of PubMed alternatives and third party interfaces are available.

Poster: PubMed Alternative Interfaces, on David Rothman.

Six alternatives to PubMed for searching scientific content on Bioinformatics Zen.

Medical Journal: PubMed Alternatives on

Or LigerCat