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Open Access Highly Accessed Software

SLIM: an alternative Web interface for MEDLINE/PubMed searches – a preliminary study

Michael Muin*, Paul Fontelo, Fang Liu and Michael Ackerman

Author Affiliations

Office of High Performance Computing and Communications, National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Maryland 20894, USA

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2005, 5:37  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-5-37

Published: 1 December 2005

Abstract

Background

With the rapid growth of medical information and the pervasiveness of the Internet, online search and retrieval systems have become indispensable tools in medicine. The progress of Web technologies can provide expert searching capabilities to non-expert information seekers. The objective of the project is to create an alternative search interface for MEDLINE/PubMed searches using JavaScript slider bars. SLIM, or Slider Interface for MEDLINE/PubMed searches, was developed with PHP and JavaScript. Interactive slider bars in the search form controlled search parameters such as limits, filters and MeSH terminologies. Connections to PubMed were done using the Entrez Programming Utilities (E-Utilities). Custom scripts were created to mimic the automatic term mapping process of Entrez. Page generation times for both local and remote connections were recorded.

Results

Alpha testing by developers showed SLIM to be functionally stable. Page generation times to simulate loading times were recorded the first week of alpha and beta testing. Average page generation times for the index page, previews and searches were 2.94 milliseconds, 0.63 seconds and 3.84 seconds, respectively. Eighteen physicians from the US, Australia and the Philippines participated in the beta testing and provided feedback through an online survey. Most users found the search interface user-friendly and easy to use. Information on MeSH terms and the ability to instantly hide and display abstracts were identified as distinctive features.

Conclusion

SLIM can be an interactive time-saving tool for online medical literature research that improves user control and capability to instantly refine and refocus search strategies. With continued development and by integrating search limits, methodology filters, MeSH terms and levels of evidence, SLIM may be useful in the practice of evidence-based medicine.