Get the most out of your library service: Medical and health-related databases

What is a “medical database”?

Research databases containing health and bioscience literature are often referred to as “medical databases” or “health-related databases”.

These are web-based platforms where you can search for journal articles or secondary evidence and specialise in a medical-related topics. The kinds of database are broadly two types: those which focus on primary literature and those which mainly cover secondary literature such as guidelines, summaries of the evidence and point of care tools. In truth there is at least some cross-over of primary and secondary research in every database.

Examples of databases that focus on primary literature (but include secondary evidence such as reviews too)

Primary research is original research done in a lab, or a trial of an intervention, or a study of a cohort or a case, someone actually taking action to carry out the research.

These databases, and direct links to them, are listed in the Medical Databases tab in Key Resources for Medicine and include the databases:

  • PubMed / Medline
  • PsycInfo

Databases that focus on secondary resources (but often include a selection of primary research too)

Secondary research is research done at a desk, gathering and pulling together other peoples’ primary research to interpret and find patterns. When done on a large scale, such as NICE panels, it enables guidelines for practice to be created based on the current newest and best primary research. Tools such as BMJ Best Practice take this further and arrange the evidence in such a way it aims to support decision making during the consultation, hence the name “point of care” tool.

These databases, and direct links to them, are listed in the Evidence based sources tab in Key Resources for Medicine and include databases such as:

  • BMJ Best Practice
  • TRIP
  • NICE Guidelines
  • Clinical Knowledge Summaries
  • Cochrane Library

The kinds of information you find in these categories can be very different. It is good to be familiar with at least one or two in each category to ensure you’re able to find evidence to write your assignments or assist in caring for patients.

Images: PubMed, Cochrane Library, BMJ Best Practice, EMBASE and TRIP.

Pubmed New and Old

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