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Finally . . . an evidence-based tool to find primary health care evidence

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To the Editor: If primary health care is to maximise its contributions to population-based outcomes, there must be optimal capacity to retrieve the evidence so critical to informing Australian policy and practice.1 We report a tool called the PHC (Primary Health Care) Search Filter, which retrieves the underlying corpus of relevant published literature in MEDLINE. The PHC search filter was developed using established research methods, incorporating a gold standard comparison approach.2 This useful and simple search tool offers a sophisticated mechanism for retrieving relevant documents pending the development of operational machine-based filtering.

A dual independent review of references of 10 systematic reviews commissioned by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute and deemed relevant to primary health care by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) provided a gold standard set of MEDLINE-indexed articles for testing. These citations were randomly divided into three sets: the term identification set (TIS), filter development set (FDS) and filter validation set (FVS). The TIS was used to generate a list of candidate MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) and text word search terms based on frequency analyses. The highest frequency terms were individually and collectively tested for retrieval…