Background and Objectives: Horizon scanning systems need to handle a wide range of sources to identify new or emerging health technologies. The objective of this study is to develop a validated Medline bibliographic search strategy (PubMed search engine) to systematically identify new or emerging health technologies.
Methods: The proposed Medline search strategy combines free text terms commonly used in article titles to denote innovation within index terms that make reference to the specific fields of interest. Efficacy was assessed by running the search over a period of 1 year (2009) and analyzing its retrieval performance (number and characteristics). For comparison purposes, all article abstracts published during 2009 in six preselected key research journals and eight high impact surgery journals were scanned. Sensitivity was defined as the proportion of relevant new or emerging technologies published in key journals that would be identified in the search strategy within the first 2 years of publication.
Results: The search yielded 6,228 abstracts of potentially new or emerging technologies. Of these, 459 were classified as new or emerging (383 truly new or emerging and 76 new indications). The scanning of 12,061 journal abstracts identified 35 relevant new or emerging technologies. Of these, twenty-nine were located within the Medline search strategy during the first 2 years of publication (sensitivity = 83 percent).
Conclusions: The current search strategy, validated against key journals, has demonstrated to be effective for horizon scanning. Even though it can require adaptations depending on the scope of the horizon scanning system, it could serve to simplify and standardize scanning processes.