Analysis of information needs of users of MEDLINEplus, 2002 - 2003.

Alicia Scott-Wright, Jonathan Crowell, Qing Zeng, David Bates, Robert Greenes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We analyzed query logs from use of MEDLINEplus to answer the questions: Are consumers' health information needs stable over time? and To what extent do users' queries change over time? To determine log stability, we assessed an Overlap Rate (OR) defined as the number of unique queries common to two adjacent months divided by the total number of unique queries in those months. All exactly matching queries were considered as one unique query. We measured ORs for the top 10 and 100 unique queries of a month and compared these to ORs for the following month.Over ten months, users submitted 12,234,737 queries;only 2,179,571 (17.8%) were unique and these had a mean word count of 2.73 (S.D., 0.24); 121 of 137 (88.3%) unique queries each comprised of exactly matching search term(s) used at least 5000 times were of only one word. We could predict with 95% confidence that the monthly OR for the top 100 unique queries would lie between 67% - 87% when compared with the top 100 from the previous month.The mean month-to-month OR for top 10 queries was 62% (S.D., 20%) indicating significant variability;the lowest OR of 33% between the top 10 in Mar.compared to Apr. was likely due to "new" interest in information about SARS pneumonia in Apr. 2003.Consumers' health information needs are relatively stable and the 100 most common unique queries are about 77% the same from month to month. Website sponsors should provide a broad range of information about a relatively stable number of topics. Analyses of log similarity may identify media-induced, cyclical,or seasonal changes in areas of consumer interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)699-703
Number of pages5
JournalAMIA ... Annual Symposium proceedings / AMIA Symposium. AMIA Symposium
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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