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University of Washington Health Sciences Library

HIHIM 540 Library Resources for Literature Reviews

a sampling of consumer health informatics search terms

consumer or patient health education terms


attitude to health

consumer education

consumer health

health promotion

health attitudes

health knowledge

health campaigns

patient education

patient education as topic

patient participation

self assessment

self care

self management

self managing

wellness programs



mHealth terms



mobile health




technology-based interventions



mobile apps

mobile applications

portable electronic apps

cell phones

mobile phones

smart phone



text messaging

portable software apps


Building a search strategy

For a simple search, enter keywords for key concepts of your topic. Your words will ALL be represented in each of the results abstracts. The more concepts you add, fewer and more relevant articles will tend to be in the results, but you may be missing articles where authors used different words from yours.


elderly falls prevention mobile applications


For a more complex search, enter keywords or synonyms for each key concept, connected by OR, in separate lines.  Do this for each component of your search. Then AND the lines together. This will find articles that have at least one term from each of your key concept groups.


1. elderly OR geriatric OR "older adults"

2. falling OR accidental fall* OR "fall detection" OR falls

3. mobile applications OR mhealth OR mobile apps OR cell phone* OR smart phone* OR smartphone*

4. #1 AND #2 AND #3

Adding additional terms with OR to any of the lives will expand the results. For example, adding 'OR software' to line 3 changes the number of articles found from 129 to 438.



In PubMed, putting an asterisk * at the end of a word finds that word, and also additional terms that begin with the word:

hospital* = hospital, hospitals, hospitalization, etc.

Parentheses around a terms will search as a phrase: mobile apps = mobile AND apps

"mobile apps" looks for these words in this order. Adding an asterisk to the end of a phrase does the same thing: mobile app* will find mobile app, mobile apps, mobile application, mobile applications.

Database Subject Headings

Many databases have controlled vocabulary or subject headings to describe key concepts. You can use these for efficient searching. In PubMed, the controlled vocabulary is called MeSH. Most articles are indexed with MeSH terms that describe the main points of the article. Example:

Headache. 2009 May;49(5):669-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01411.x.

How well do headache patients remember? A comparison of self-report measures of
headache frequency and severity in patients with migraine.

McKenzie JA(1), Cutrer FM.

Author information: 
(1)College of Medicine, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation,
200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To compare patient recall of migraine headache frequency and severity 
over 4 weeks prior to a return visit as reported in an interval questionnaire vs 
a daily diary.
BACKGROUND: Many therapeutic decisions in the management of migraine patients are
based on patient recall of response to treatment. As consistent completion of a
daily headache diary is problematic, we have assessed the reliability of patient 
recall in a 1-time questionnaire.
METHODS: Headache frequency and average severity (0 to 3-point scale) were
reported in an interval questionnaire by 209 patients who had also maintained a
daily diary over the same 4-week period.
RESULTS: Headache frequency over the previous 4 weeks as reported in interval
questionnaires (14.7) was not different from that documented in diaries (15.1), P
= .056. However, reported average headache severity on a 0 to 3 scale as reported
in the questionnaire (1.84) was worse than that documented in the diaries (1.63),
P < .001.
CONCLUSIONS: In the management of individual patients, the daily diary is still
preferable when available. Aggregate assessment of headache frequency in groups
of patients based on recall of the prior 4 weeks is equally as reliable as a
diary. Headache severity reported in questionnaires tends to be greater than that
documented in daily diaries and may be less reliable.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01411.x 
PMID: 19456879  [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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