J Am Med Inform Assoc 19:468-472 doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000319
  • Research and applications
  • Focus on information retrieval

Search filters to identify geriatric medicine in Medline

Open Access
  1. Lotty Hooft2
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, section of Geriatric Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Dutch Cochrane Centre, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3Gelre Hospitals, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands
  4. 4Medical Library, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lotty Hooft, Dutch Cochrane Centre, J1B-108-2, Academic Medical Center, PO Box 22660, 1100 DD Amsterdam, The Netherlands; l.hooft{at}
  • Received 18 April 2011
  • Accepted 29 August 2011
  • Published Online First 23 September 2011


Objectives To create user-friendly search filters with high sensitivity, specificity, and precision to identify articles on geriatric medicine in Medline.

Design A diagnostic test assessment framework was used. A reference set of 2255 articles was created by hand-searching 22 biomedical journals in Medline, and each article was labeled as ‘relevant’, ‘not relevant’, or ‘possibly relevant’ for geriatric medicine. From the relevant articles, search terms were identified to compile different search strategies. The articles retrieved by the various search strategies were compared with articles from the reference set as the index test to create the search filters.

Measures Sensitivity, specificity, precision, accuracy, and number-needed-to-read (NNR) were calculated by comparing the results retrieved by the different search strategies with the reference set.

Results The most sensitive search filter had a sensitivity of 94.8%, a specificity of 88.7%, a precision of 73.0%, and an accuracy of 90.2%. It had an NNR of 1.37. The most specific search filter had a specificity of 96.6%, a sensitivity of 69.1%, a precision of 86.6%, and an accuracy of 89.9%. It had an NNR of 1.15.

Conclusion These geriatric search filters simplify searching for relevant literature and therefore contribute to better evidence-based practice. The filters are useful to both the clinician who wants to find a quick answer to a clinical question and the researcher who wants to find as many relevant articles as possible without retrieving too many irrelevant articles.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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