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Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Differentiate between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources of biomedical information.

  • Select appropriate resources for a specific information request.

  • Describe the role of Internet- and mobile-based resources in the provision of drug information.

  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of print- versus Internet- or mobile-based resources for drug information.

  • Evaluate tertiary resources to determine appropriateness of information.

  • Describe appropriate search strategy for identification of drug information.

  • Recognize alternative resources for provision of drug information.

  • Describe reliable health information resources for patients and consumers.

  • Explain the role and progress of drug information resources retrieved from mobile applications and their potential impact on patient care.


Key Concepts

  • imageThere are three types of information sources in biomedical literature: primary, secondary, and tertiary resources.

  • image Tertiary resources contain information that has been filtered and summarized by the author or editor to provide a quick and concise overview of a topic.

  • image Secondary resources are mainly in the form of searchable databases that enable location and retrieval of primary or tertiary resources.

  • image Several types of publications are considered primary, including controlled trials, cohort studies, case series, and case reports.

  • image Knowing the most appropriate resource for information retrieval is the first step in the provision of quality drug information.

  • image Secondary resources provide access to primary (e.g., clinical trials) and some tertiary (e.g., narrative reviews) literature found in journals.

  • image Various secondary electronic resources index and abstract information from journals, meetings, publications, or other sources, differently; therefore, a practitioner should search various secondary resources in order to perform a comprehensive search.

  • image Drug or health information retrieved from Internet-based or online media needs to be evaluated for accuracy, comprehensiveness, and mode of maintenance (e.g., recent updates, qualifications of those performing updates).

The quantity of medical information and medical literature available continues to grow at an astounding rate. Over 3 million articles are published annually from 33,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed English-language journals.1 The number of articles published grows by about 4% each year, whereas the number of journals increases by about 5%. The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) processes about 3.3 billion online searches per year from users seeking medical and health-related information via PubMed®.2

The introduction of tablets, smartphones, and Internet resources has radically changed the methods by which information is accessed. Mobile devices increase point-of-care accessibility to information, providing fast and convenient access to useful resources needed for answering drug information (DI) questions.3,4 They can also help health care providers access information via a large number of downloadable mobile applications (apps) that can be accessed even when not connected to the Internet.

Mobile devices and digital technologies have also vastly increased the accessibility of health information to patients, caregivers, and consumers. Approximately 90% of American adults use the Internet to access information.5 In a ...

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