Study: UpToDate More Likely than PubMed to Answer Patient Care Questions

The authors observed 40 residents and 30 internists in the internal medicine department in an academic medical center in The Netherlands while they searched PubMed and UpToDate.

A complete answer was found in 53% questions sent to PubMed or UpToDate. A partial or full answer was obtained in 83% of UpToDate searches and 63% of PubMed searches (p less than 0.001).

UpToDate answered more questions than PubMed on all major medical topics, but a significant difference was detected only when the question was related to etiology or therapy.

Time to answer was 241 seconds for UpToDate and 291 seconds for PubMed.

It looks like UpToDate is gradually becoming "the universal textbook of medicine." Do you remember the last time you opened Harrison's to consult about a clinical topic? Was that in 1997 or 2001?

There is an old proverb: beware the man of a single book (homo unius libri). It describes people with limited knowledge.

I find UpToDate useful and read it all the time. However, there are billions of scientific journal pages on the Web and the answer to your question must be somewhere out there. Do not be a man of only one book.


Answers to questions posed during daily patient care are more likely to be answered by UpToDate than PubMed. Hoogendam A, Stalenhoef AF, Robbé PF, Overbeke AJ. Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. J Med Internet Res 2008;10(4):e29.
Link via Ivor Kovic.
Are You Dependent on UpToDate for Your Clinical Practice?
5 Tips to Stay Up-to-Date with Medical Literature
Image source: UpToDate.

Related reading:

UpToDate, Harrison’s Cecil’s and PubMed---what are their respective roles? Notes from Dr. RW.
Small association between use of UpToDate and reduced patient length of stay, lower mortality (study sponsored by UTD)
95% of junior doctors consider electronic textbooks the most effective source of knowledge. 70% of junior doctors read the medical literature in response to a specific patient encounter. BMJ, 2011.
Most up-to-date point-of-care medical resource? Sorry, UpToDate, Dynamed is way faster - BMJ and
How Current Are Leading Evidence-Based Medical Textbooks? An Analytic Survey of 4 Online Textbooks (including UpToDate)


  1. I find Harrison Practice to be an excellent sourse, brief and as uptodate as Uptodate is : ) Not to mention the $$$$ attached to Uptodate.
    And an Uptodate user wouldnt that be called a homo unius computeri? ;)

  2. I love UpToDate, but it has its limits. For example, UpToDate is not a particularly good source for answering surgery questions. Also, it is not available off campus.

    Another really good web resource (free!) is emedicine. As for Harrison's, sure, we 21st century med students use it all the time. You attendings do know that Harrison's is available on line through Access Medicine, right??? :-)

  3. eMedicine coverage is limited and the treatment part is almost pathetic.

    Harrison's is available online but the search is book-focused rather than focused on answering management questions.

    UpToDate is not a textbook. In its current versions, it is a very specific product focused on management. Works better than the other resource for that specific purpose.

  4. UpToDate is available anywhere (off campus and on your phone browser) with a personal subscription.

  5. uptodate a clinical tool ? dont think so just a big text book which takes too long to read when you need a quick answer on the ward. i just saw some info from the bmj guys about a new product which I am going to get a trial for:

  6. bmj just released some free content on swine flu in their new product:, but also some free cme learning modules via bmj learning