Finding POEMs in the Medical Literature

Mark H. Ebell, Henry C. Barry, David C. Slawson, Allen F. Shaughnessy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Articles about primary care topics that measure patient-oriented outcomes (eg, morbidity, mortality, quality of life) should change practice, if the reported results are valid. We call these types of articles POEMs - Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters. The extent and distribution of POEMs in the medical literature is unknown. We identified 85 medical journals of potential interest to primary care physicians, and counted 8085 original research articles over a 6-month period; 211 of those articles were POEMs (2.6%). Ten journals accounted for 50% of the POEMs identified during the study period: Journal of the American Medical Association, Annals of Internal Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, Archives of Internal Medicine, Lancet, British Medical Journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Arthritis and Rheumatology, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Other journals with a high percentage of POEMs were: Journal of Family Practice, Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, and American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Half the journals we surveyed published 0 or 1 POEMs during the study period. Not all clinicians have the time, inclination, or access to review a large number of journals on a regular basis. By focusing on POEMs and the journals that publish them, busy physicians can avoid reading 98% of the original research published each month. This will not only drastically cut physicians' reading time, but also help them obtain the information that is most valuable for their patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-355
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 1999


  • Literature
  • Physicians, family
  • Reproducability of results

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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