Review of ClinicalKey

Elsevier’s ClinicalKey launched a new interface recently. While a dedicated mobile app is still not available, the new responsive layout means the product functions well on any screen size.

We reviewed ClinicalKey back in 2012 when it first became available. At that time, signs pointed to this larger product replacing MDConsult; this is now confirmed. MDConsult is scheduled to shut down on December 31, 2014.

What’s changed? Navigation has moved into dropdown menus on the top of the homepage and search results. This allows the whole display to be scaled down to a phone-sized screen more efficiently. Labels for filtering options have also changed and are now more clear.

When you first search for a topic, the system offers a number of suggestions. If you search on one concept, such as a disease, you’ll be taken directly to one of the new Clinical Topic Pages. You can click to see all results.

image of search

Content for these Topic Pages is mostly drawn from the latest edition of Ferri’s Clinical Advisor. First Consult, Elsevier’s point-of-care reference source, also provides relevant summary information one tab away.

topic page

From the “all results” view, you can filter by Source Type and here is where you’ll notice some labels have changed. In the previous version, there was some confusion about Journals vs MEDLINE. In this interface, “Full Text Articles” is the new name for Elsevier’s own journal content while “MEDLINE Abstracts” pulls in citations from MEDLINE.

MEDLINE Abstracts can be configured to show links to your institution’s full-text journals, but the search itself doesn’t function the same way as PubMed. For example, a search on cardiomyopathy nets 5,995 results in Clinical Key’s MEDLINE Abstracts, but more than 92,000 in PubMed. This is likely due to Clinical Key’s proprietary indexing system and how search terms are parsed.

results with nav menu

Filtering by Study Type shows results from both Full Text Articles and MEDLINE Abstracts.

Filtering by Specialty limits you to relevant content in Full Text Articles, Books, Images, and Patient Education, i.e., not all of the content in the system.

You can also browse for content in Journals, Books, Drug Monographs, Guidelines, Patient Education, and Multimedia. The best use of browse is in Books, where you can see the full list of available books or filter to a specialty.

browse book list

As before, the content in ClinicalKey contains a wide variety of sources from publisher Elsevier in addition to aggregated free content from the National Guideline Clearinghouse and Clinical Trials.

Sharing and Using Content
Registering with ClinicalKey allows more options for using the content. Registered users can download book chapters in PDF, save and tag items so that they are easier to find, as well as add images and other items to presentations easily.

Basic functions to print and email content are available to everyone.

  • Price
    • Institutional subscription costs are based on institutional size. Individual subscriptions are available by specialty. All specialty packages contain some core resources (including First Consult, a couple of standard textbooks, basic drug monographs, and some others). Prices reflect the number of additional materials available in that specialty and range from $449 to $1248/year.
    • The new interface looks great on small screens.
    • The book content remains top notch.
  • Dislikes
    • While the labels are more clear, both journal sources remain limited. Full Text Articles don’t represent what an institution subscribes to, just Elsevier content.
    • There has been some discussion that the new interface is not compatible with Internet Explorer 8, which many hospitals and health systems still rely on.
    • As commenters to the 2012 review noted, the drug information is more limited than what is available directly through Clinical Pharmacology.
  • Overall

    If you have institutional access, ClinicalKey’s well designed mobile optimized site is now a great resource accessing information, particularly within textbooks. To get journal articles and drug information, there remain better options out there.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface
  • Multimedia Usage
  • Price

    Pricing is quite variable depending on details of subscription and number of users

  • Real World Applicability