bims-librar Biomed News
on Biomedical librarianship
Issue of 2021‒04‒18
fifteen papers selected by
Thomas Krichel
Open Library Society

  1. Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2021 Apr 12. 37(1): e51
      BACKGROUND: Evidence syntheses of all types have their foundation in literature searches. Literature searching is developing in line with the growing use of evidence synthesis and is also informed, as a field of work, by the spirit of being evidence-based. Increasing numbers of research papers about information retrieval are being published, and keeping up to date with the latest developments in this ever more wide-ranging field is demanding.METHODS: Summarized Research in Information Retrieval for HTA (SuRe Info) is a Web site ( that summarizes research-based information on effective and efficient evidence identification for the different aspects of health technology assessment (HTA) and evidence synthesis. This paper describes the rationale, processes, and challenges of producing SuRe Info and insights into the pace of development in the field of evidence-based information retrieval. The paper also provides scenarios suggesting how SuRe Info can help searchers in their daily work and with specific questions.
    RESULTS: SuRe Info currently comprises seventeen chapters, falling into two categories: (i) chapters about general search methods relating to all types of research and (ii) chapters summarizing the methods to use when searching for specific aspects of HTA (as defined in the HTA Core Model® by the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA)).
    CONCLUSIONS: SuRe Info is not a substitute for methods handbooks, but by providing an overview of current research evidence for major issues in information retrieval in HTA, it helps searchers in this field to keep abreast of the latest research.
    Keywords:  Evidence-Based Practice; Information storage and retrieval; Technology assessment, Biomedical
  2. NPJ Digit Med. 2021 Apr 12. 4(1): 68
      The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in international efforts to understand, track, and mitigate the disease, yielding a significant corpus of COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2-related publications across scientific disciplines. Throughout 2020, over 400,000 coronavirus-related publications have been collected through the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset. Here, we present CO-Search, a semantic, multi-stage, search engine designed to handle complex queries over the COVID-19 literature, potentially aiding overburdened health workers in finding scientific answers and avoiding misinformation during a time of crisis. CO-Search is built from two sequential parts: a hybrid semantic-keyword retriever, which takes an input query and returns a sorted list of the 1000 most relevant documents, and a re-ranker, which further orders them by relevance. The retriever is composed of a deep learning model (Siamese-BERT) that encodes query-level meaning, along with two keyword-based models (BM25, TF-IDF) that emphasize the most important words of a query. The re-ranker assigns a relevance score to each document, computed from the outputs of (1) a question-answering module which gauges how much each document answers the query, and (2) an abstractive summarization module which determines how well a query matches a generated summary of the document. To account for the relatively limited dataset, we develop a text augmentation technique which splits the documents into pairs of paragraphs and the citations contained in them, creating millions of (citation title, paragraph) tuples for training the retriever. We evaluate our system ( ) on the data of the TREC-COVID information retrieval challenge, obtaining strong performance across multiple key information retrieval metrics.
  3. J Biomed Inform. 2021 Apr 08. pii: S1532-0464(21)00108-8. [Epub ahead of print] 103779
      The automatic recognition of gene names and their corresponding database identifiers in biomedical text is an important first step for many downstream text-mining applications. While current methods for tagging gene entities have been developed for biomedical literature, their performance on species other than human is substantially lower due to the lack of annotation data. We therefore present the NLM-Gene corpus, a high-quality manually annotated corpus for genes developed at the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), covering ambiguous gene names, with an average of 29 gene mentions (10 unique identifiers) per document, and a broader representation of different species (including Homo sapiens, Mus musculus, Rattus norvegicus, Drosophila melanogaster, Arabidopsis thaliana, Danio rerio, etc.) when compared to previous gene annotation corpora. NLM-Gene consists of 550 PubMed abstracts from 156 biomedical journals, doubly annotated by six experienced NLM indexers, randomly paired for each document to control for bias. The annotators worked in three annotation rounds until they reached complete agreement. This gold-standard corpus can serve as a benchmark to develop & test new gene text mining algorithms. Using this new resource, we have developed a new gene finding algorithm based on deep learning which improved both on precision and recall from existing tools. The NLM-Gene annotated corpus is freely available at We have also applied this tool to the entire PubMed/PMC with their results freely accessible through our web-based tool PubTator (
  4. Hernia. 2021 Apr 14.
      INTRODUCTION: Mesh-related complications following pelvic prolapse surgery has potentiated societal fear and led to increased investigation into mesh use in inguinal hernia repair (IHR) surgery online. However concern exists regarding the quality of Internet health informatics. The DISCERN Instrument and HONcode  tool can be used to assess the quality and reliability of online health information. The aim of this study is to investigate the reliability and quality of online information pertaining to mesh use in IHR surgery using the DISCERN instrument and HONcode tool.METHODS: An Internet search using the keywords: 'mesh', 'inguinal hernia' and 'surgery' was carried out via Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook and Twitter. The HONcode and DISCERN scores were generated for each of the first ten search engine result pages (SERPs).
    RESULTS: Google provided the most reliable [Median HONcode score 77% (IQR 25.5%)] and highest quality information [Median DISCERN score; 61.5 (IQR 18.25)]. Social media yielded both the most unreliable and lowest quality information. Facebook was the most unreliable [Median HONcode score 21% (IQR 14.25%)], while Twitter imparted the lowest quality information [Median DISCERN score of 18.5 (IQR 25.25)].
    DISCUSSION: A 2018 Cochrane review concluded the use of mesh in IHR to be safe and associated with superior outcomes. However, numerous SERPs present results contradicting this, based solely upon Level 5 evidence. Commercialisation of the Internet has resulted in search engine optimisation, which can permit lesser quality sites to obtain higher SERP ranking. Alarmingly  if only a limited search is carried out by patients [4], lower quality, sensationalist evidence may be the only information they are exposed to. As such this may negatively influence the patient decision-making process detrimentally. However utilisation of social media by healthcare professionals may offer a solution to bridge the gap between the public and high quality medical information.
    CONCLUSIONS: Online information regarding mesh repair of inguinal herniae is of variable quality and reliability. Enhanced quality assurance of online health information is necessary. However, increased presence by hernia societies on social media may help to disseminate high quality information to patients, thus enabling pre-hospital education to set the scene prior to formal hospital consultation.
    Keywords:  Inguinal hernia surgery; Internet; Mesh; Quality; Reliability
  5. Front Mol Biosci. 2021 ;8 620475
      During the last years, the increasing number of DNA sequencing and protein mutagenesis studies has generated a large amount of variation data published in the biomedical literature. The collection of such data has been essential for the development and assessment of tools predicting the impact of protein variants at functional and structural levels. Nevertheless, the collection of manually curated data from literature is a highly time consuming and costly process that requires domain experts. In particular, the development of methods for predicting the effect of amino acid variants on protein stability relies on the thermodynamic data extracted from literature. In the past, such data were deposited in the ProTherm database, which however is no longer maintained since 2013. For facilitating the collection of protein thermodynamic data from literature, we developed the semi-automatic tool ThermoScan. ThermoScan is a text mining approach for the identification of relevant thermodynamic data on protein stability from full-text articles. The method relies on a regular expression searching for groups of words, including the most common conceptual words appearing in experimental studies on protein stability, several thermodynamic variables, and their units of measure. ThermoScan analyzes full-text articles from the PubMed Central Open Access subset and calculates an empiric score that allows the identification of manuscripts reporting thermodynamic data on protein stability. The method was optimized on a set of publications included in the ProTherm database, and tested on a new curated set of articles, manually selected for presence of thermodynamic data. The results show that ThermoScan returns accurate predictions and outperforms recently developed text-mining algorithms based on the analysis of publication abstracts. Availability: The ThermoScan server is freely accessible online at The ThermoScan python code and the Google Chrome extension for submitting visualized PMC web pages to the ThermoScan server are available at
    Keywords:  automated literature mining; document classification; protein stability; text mining; thermodynamic data
  6. Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2021 Apr 12. 37(1): e52
      OBJECTIVES: This article aims to provide a brief review of information retrieval and hospital-based health technology assessment (HB-HTA) and describe library experiences and working methods at a regional HB-HTA center from the center's inception to the present day.METHODS: For this brief literature review, searches in PubMed and LISTA were conducted to identify studies reporting on HB-HTA and information retrieval. The description of the library's involvement in the HTA center and its working methods is based on the authors' experience and internal and/or unpublished documents.
    RESULTS: Region Västra Götaland is the second largest healthcare region in Sweden and has had a regional HB-HTA center since 2007 (HTA-centrum). Assessments are performed by clinicians supported by HTA methodologists. The medical library at Sahlgrenska University Hospital works closely with HTA-centrum, with one HTA librarian responsible for coordinating the work.
    CONCLUSION: In the literature on HB-HTA, we found limited descriptions of the role librarians and information specialists play in different units. The librarians at HTA-centrum play an important role, not only in literature searching but also in abstract and full-text screening.
    Keywords:  Biomedical; Information services; Information storage and retrieval; Librarians; Libraries; Medical; Technology assessment
  7. Health Info Libr J. 2021 Apr 16.
      BACKGROUND: Understanding the health information needs of adolescents is the first step towards providing them with relevant information to aid them in their decision making regarding health issues.OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study is to assess adolescents' needs, perceptions and sources of health information.
    METHODS: Four hundred sixty-nine high school students in Osijek, Croatia, participated in this study by answering a questionnaire. The collected data were analysed using basic frequency and non-parametric statistical methods.
    RESULTS: The most popular health topics identified by adolescents in our study were nutrition, diseases, depression, relationships, sexual intercourse and alcohol. Adolescents consider their parents the most reliable personal source of health information (72.0%), while they perceive the Internet as the main non-personal source of health information (29.8%). Adolescents wish to get more education about health issues at school (54.4%). Significant gender differences were found in adolescents' needs, perceptions and sources of health information.
    CONCLUSIONS: It is important to provide adolescents with systematic institutional health education and improve health advisory services and library/information services to assist adolescents in locating health information and resolving their health related questions.
    Keywords:  adolescents; health education; health information needs; information seeking behaviour; information sources; questionnaires
  8. BMC Public Health. 2021 Apr 15. 21(1): 736
      BACKGROUND: Seeking online health information (OHI) has become a common practice globally. The information seekers could face health risks if they are not proficient in OHI literacy. The OHI-seeking behaviors and skills of Chinese college students, the largest proportion of college students in the world, are understudied. This study was aimed to describe OHI-seeking behaviors and skills of college students in Guangdong, China.METHODS: College students in the Guangdong province with OHI-seeking experience were invited via WeChat, QQ, and Sina Weibo using QR code posters and flyers for participation in this online anonymized questionnaire-based study. Data on demographics, OHI literacy, information resources, search approaches, and behaviors were collected. The relationship between perceived OHI literacy and high-risk behaviors was investigated by bivariate logistic regression analysis.
    RESULTS: Respondents were 1203 college students with a mean age of 20.6 years, females (60.2%), and undergraduates (97.2%). They sought health information via websites (20.3%), WeChat (2.6%), or both (77.1%). Baidu was the main search engine, and (80.3%), (48.4%), and (35.8%) were top three among 20 searched websites for information about self-care (80.7%), general health (79.5%), disease prevention (77.7%), self-medication (61.2%), family treatment (40.9%), drugs (37.7%), western medications (26.6%), hospitals (22.7%), physicians (21.4%), and Traditional Chinese Medicine (15.6%). Despite most respondents (78%) lacked confidence in the evidence quality and satisfaction with the results, only 32.4% further consulted doctors. Many (> 50%) would recommend the retrieved information to others. About 20% experienced hacking/Internet fraud. Cronbach's alpha for the internal consistency of OHI literacy was 0.786. Bivariate logistic regression analysis showed that students who believed they can judge the evidence level of OHI were more likely to self-diagnose (OR = 2.2, 95%CI, 1.6-3.1) and look for drug usage (OR = 3.1, 95%CI, 1.9-5.0).
    CONCLUSIONS: This study reveals Chinese college students' heavy reliance on OHI to manage their own and others' health without sufficient knowledge/skills to identify misinformation and disinformation. The apparent risky information-seeking behaviors of Chinese college students warrant the provision of regulated, accurate, and actionable health information; assurance of cybersecurity; and health information literacy promotion in colleges by concerned authorities.
    Keywords:  Chinese college students; Health literacy; Health risk; Online behavior; Online health information
  9. J Med Internet Res. 2021 Apr 14. 23(4): e18799
      BACKGROUND: Given the rapid ongoing progression of the internet and increase in health information available from disparate online sources, it is important to understand how these changes impact online health information-seeking behavior of the population and the way of managing one's health.OBJECTIVE: This paper aims at describing the evolution of internet use as a source of health information between 2010 and 2017, as well as the characteristics of online health information seekers, topics of interest, sources of information, and trust in retrieved information and potential impact on behavior.
    METHODS: Data from the French nationally representative surveys Health Barometers were used (N=4141 in 2010, 4811 in 2014, and 6255 in 2017). Evolutions over time were assessed using chi-square tests. Associations with sociodemographic characteristics and health status were evaluated using logistic regression models.
    RESULTS: The use of the internet as a source of health information rose between 2010 and 2014 (from 37.3% to 67.9%, P<.001) but decreased significantly in 2017 (60.3%, P<.001). Overall, the profile of health information seekers compared with nonseekers did not change over time. They were more likely to be women, to be younger, to have a higher educational level, to have a higher household income, and to be executives. Between 2014 and 2017, the proportion of those who did not pay attention to the source of information significantly increased to reach 39.7% (P<.001). In 2017 as in 2014, general health-related websites remained the first source of information (38.6%) while institutional websites were the third source (8.1%). Most information seekers trusted the information found online in 2010 (more than 80%), with a slight decrease between 2014 and 2017 (P=.048). Among individual characteristics, trust in the information was the main determinant of the way of managing one's health (odds ratio 4.06, 95% CI 3.26-5.06).
    CONCLUSIONS: After a rapid growth in the internet use for seeking health information in the 2010 to 2014 period, a decrease was recorded in 2017, in parallel with a decrease in trust in the quality and reliability of information found online. These findings underline the need for public health authorities to increase citizens' eHealth literacy and to provide alternative trustworthy sources combining the popularity and accessibility of general health information websites.
    Keywords:  eHealth literacy; health information; information-seeking behavior; internet
  10. J Gynecol Obstet Hum Reprod. 2021 Apr 10. pii: S2468-7847(21)00082-9. [Epub ahead of print] 102144
      BACKGROUND: During pregnancy period, women's information needs increases. Receiving information during this period affects the birth and postpartum period.OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to determine the use of the internet to receiving childbirth information by pregnant women.
    METHODS: The study was a descriptive study. Data were collected using an Information Form. The sample consisted of 162 pregnant women.
    RESULTS: The 92.4% of women used the internet as a source of information about childbirth. Blogs or web pages were the most frequently used internet sources with 85.8% usage, followed by mobile applications with 75.6%, and social media with 58.1%. Most of the women found the information they received from the internet partially useful and reliable. 24.3% of the women stated that receiving information on internet decreased their fears and 14.8% that it increased their fears.
    CONCLUSIONS: Most women used the internet as primary information source. Health professionals should orient people to reliable sources.
    Keywords:  Fear of childbirth; Information sources; Internet; Pregnant women
  11. Semin Ophthalmol. 2021 Apr 14. 1-6
      INTRODUCTION: The internet is an increasingly important resource for patients seeking health-related information. Because of this trend, the American Medical Association (AMA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that online patient education materials (PEMs) be written between a third and seventh grade level. The present study evaluates the readability levels of ophthalmological PEMs provided by five major academic hospitals, quantifies the availability of accompanying videos and graphics, and examines the extent to which readability may be increased.METHODS: In March 2021, 397 PEMs from five major academic hospitals were extracted for subsequent analysis by seven validated readability assessments. The presence of an accompanying video or graphic was noted. Statistical significance was assessed using the Kruskal-Wallis test with Dunn's multiple comparisons test and the chi-square test.
    RESULTS: Nearly all articles were written above the recommended reading level of 7th grade. After averaging the scales for each article, the median grade level was 11.7 (interquartile range [IQR], 10.7-12.7). The PEMs with the highest median reading level were provided by the Johns Hopkins University Wilmer Institute (12.6, IQR, 11.3 - 13.6). Only 13.6% and 13.1% of articles had an accompanying video and graphic, respectively. Reduction of sentence length beneath 15 words resulted in an improvement of readability by 2.7 grade levels.
    CONCLUSIONS: The readability of online patient resources provided by major academic hospitals were above the literacy guidelines recommended by the NIH and AMA. Furthermore, most articles did not include a video or graphic, both of which could potentially improve patient understandability of educational materials. By altering these PEMs, as demonstrated here, institutions could increase the value these articles provide for patients and therefore the quality of the patient-physician relationship.
    Keywords:  Academic Hospitals; Health Literacy; Patient Education; Readability
  12. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2021 ;122(5): 325-330
      OBJECTIVE: The global impact of COVID-19 pandemic has gained momentum rapidly. People have little information about SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus). Internet has become a frequently used tool to obtain information in recent years, while YouTube is one of the popular sources of information with many videos on its platform. This study aims to identify the topics regarding Coronavirus that people learned about on YouTube. The videos about Coronavirus were also evaluated in terms of the reliability of their source of information.METHODS: In total, 160 videos on Coronavirus that had 500,000 or more views were analysed. The latent Dirichlet allocation method was used in the process of identifying the topics that were then compared in terms of video parameters. The reliability of the source of information provided by videos was assessed with a modified DISCERN tool.
    RESULTS: A proportion of 15.6 % of these videos had a scientific content, while 45 % of these videos were about the process entailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of video reliability, the difference between video types was found to be significant; videos with scientific content had more reliable sources of information (p<0.001).
    CONCLUSION: It has been determined that the videos about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, and those with scientific content have the most reliable source of information on Coronavirus (Tab. 5, Fig. 1, Ref. 35). Text in PDF Keywords: coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 pandemic, coronavirus pandemic, latent Dirichlet allocation, information, YouTube.
  13. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2021 Apr 10. 34894211007248
      PURPOSE: The varied treatment options available to patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) can cause significant patient confusion. In particular, transoral robotic surgery (TORS) has become widely used for treatment of HPV-positive OPSCC. As patients commonly refer to the internet for additional information, we aim to evaluate the quality of online patient educational materials for TORS in comparison to other otolaryngology surgical procedures.METHODS: The terms "transoral robotic surgery," "glossectomy," "thyroidectomy," and "neck dissection" were searched on Google. Flesch reading ease, Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level, MD review rates, and PEMAT understandability and actionability were assessed for each search term. Google trends was used to determine search interest for each term between May 2015 and May 2020.
    RESULTS: Of the 30 TORS websites that met inclusion criteria, the average FRE and FKGL scores were 40.74 and 11.60 (that of an average high school senior). The FRE and FKGL scores for TORS were all statistically significantly lower than those of all comparator search terms (P < .05). Only 1 out of 30 TORS sites were MD reviewed, representing the lowest MD review rate across all search terms. Understandability and actionability scores for TORS were also the lowest across all search terms at 77.71% and 2.66%, respectively. TORS had the lowest search interest.
    CONCLUSIONS: In comparison to other common otolaryngology procedures, TORS websites are the least patient friendly. As TORS becomes a more widely used procedure, it is critical that TORS websites become higher quality resources that patients can reliably reference.
    Keywords:  PEMAT; patient education; readability; transoral robotic surgery; websites
  14. J Osteopath Med. 2021 Apr 12.
      CONTEXT: On December 1, 2020, Drs. Wolfgang Wodarg and Micheal Yeadon petitioned to withhold emergency use authorization of the BNT162b2 messenger ribonucleic acid vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) manufactured by BioNTech and Pfizer, raising concern for female infertility risks but acknowledging the lack of evidence. The European Medicines Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration ultimately issued emergency use authorizations, but misinformation claiming that COVID-19 vaccines cause female infertility began circulating on social media, potentially influencing public perception and medical decision making among pregnant patients or those seeking to become pregnant.OBJECTIVES: To determine the potential influence misinformation may have had on public interest in infertility related topics, as analyzed through internet search statistics in the US.
    METHODS: The Google Trends tool was used to analyze results for the search terms "infertility," "infertility AND vaccine," and "infertility AND COVID vaccine" in the US from February 4, 2020 to February 3, 2021. We applied autoregressive integrated moving average models to forecast expected values, comparing them with actual observed values.
    RESULTS: At peak interest (100), the forecasted relative search volumes interest for the search terms "infertility," "infertility AND vaccine," and "infertility AND COVID vaccine" were 45.47 (95% CI, 33.27-57.66; p<0.001), 0.88 (95% CI, 2.87-4.63; p<0.001), and 0.29 (95% CI, -2.25-2.82; p<0.001). The actual relative search volumes at peak searching represented 119.9, 11,251, and 34,900% increases, respectively, when compared with forecasted values.
    CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 vaccine misinformation corresponded with increased internet searches for topics related to infertility in the US. Dispelling misinformation and informing patients about the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination may prevent unnecessary vaccine hesitancy or refusal, contributing to successful vaccination efforts.
    Keywords:  COVID-19; Google Trends; infertility; internet searches; patient information; vaccine
  15. Rev Neurosci. 2021 Apr 13.
      There has been an enormous amount of interest in how the brain seeks information. The study of this issue is a rapidly growing field in neuroscience. Information seeking is to make informative choices among multiple alternatives. A central issue in information seeking is how the value of information is assessed in order to choose informative alternatives. This issue has been studied in psychology, economics, and artificial intelligence. The present review is focused on information assessment and summarizes the psychological and computational criteria with which humans and computers assess information. Based on the summary, neurophysiological findings are discussed. In addition, a computational view of the relationships between these criteria is presented.
    Keywords:  active learning; curiosity; decision-making; information assessment; reward; uncertainty