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10/11/2012
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Mobile Medline App Streamlines Data Search

Using visual search component, Unbound Medicine is hoping to transform the way physicians search for medical information through the federal government's Medline database.

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Unbound Medicine, a creator of mobile and Web-based medical reference applications, is looking to lessen the time it takes to sift through scientific reference materials with the introduction of its Unbound Medline app. The reference tool gives docs mobile access to Medline, with added functionality through its unique Grapherence component.

Medline, a popular bibliographic database provided by the National Library of Medicine, gives doctors access to medical literature dating back to the 1960s, said William Detmer, MD, president and CEO of Unbound Medicine, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. A physician or clinician searching for content, he said, can browse journal articles and view the author name, the original source, and an abstract, as well as view the full article text, if they choose to do so.

"It lets [doctors and nurses] search 20 million articles from their device in a way that helps them find the best and most relevant articles from the highest-quality sources," said Detmer. "If they're on their mobile device and can't get the information they need from the abstract, Medline includes links to the full text, and it allows them to pull it up and read it on their device."

Detmer said Unbound Medline, which is made by Unbound Medicine, worked in "a lot of little details" to make Medline "seamless." Once a clinician opts to view a full article text, for example, a visual search component helps him or her navigate through relevant literature. The component, called Grapherence, is proprietary to Unbound Medicine, Detmer said.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

"You have a database of 20 million articles, and you're trying to find a needle in a haystack," he said. "Grapherence applies a visual search approach to searching and navigating … If my goal is to find one great article that's going to answer my question, I can either type in text and wade through text, or I can use my visual processing system, which finds patterns."

Grapherence, he continued, shows how articles are related to one another. "No matter how good your search algorithm is, the best article probably isn't written most recently, and it won't come up first," said Detmer. Instead, Grapherence takes a search result and shows the relationship of that article in relation to other articles in the database.

Looking at the app, a clinician will see a center node, which is her original search result. "The articles around it are either articles that my article refers to … [A]rticles that have referred to my article… and then we go out more than one generation and look at the referring and referred for the first generation." Linked articles are color-coded from light grey to a pure pink and red, Detmer said--the more saturated the color, the more often the article has been cited by others.

"You can think of it as a voting system--every article can be ranked by how many people referred to this article ... [I]f you're trying to find an answer to a question and you get a good answer from an article, you can look at Grapherence and see, for example, the article referred to [another article]; you can click on that and get the full text. It's a visual system that lets you discover the seminal article in [a particular] field."

Article nodes are connected by inbound and outbound arrows to show these relationships within the app. Detmer said the app is appealing to not only doctors, but also students and researchers looking for a quick way to find information relevant to what they're looking for. "Instead of typing and reading and parsing, you get this map you can play around with."

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

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jaysimmons
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jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2012 | 12:53:39 AM
re: Mobile Medline App Streamlines Data Search
As more information becomes available, the tools to categorize and index the data will become increasingly important. At the end of the day, a database of 20 million articles is useless if thereG«÷s no meaningful way to find the content you need. ItG«÷s great to see new ways of making use of data, and the idea of using linked articles, color coding to show G«£rankG«• and overall visualizing patterns is a great step in the right direction. Hopefully other companies will follow suit and produce equally appealing ways to make use of the abundance of information out there.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
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