Review Update: ClinicalKey
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Rebecca O. Davis, PhD, MSLS
Assistant Professor
School of Library and Information Science School of Library and Information Science
College of Organizational, Computational and Information Sciences
Simmons University

Since the original review of ClinicalKey I wrote for the June 2017 issue of Doody’s Collection Development Monthly (, there have been some minor changes.

ClinicalKey is a clinical search engine and database by Elsevier Science which provides physicians, medical students, medical librarians and health care providers with relevant clinical information on various biomedical that is constantly updated.

Clinical Key is used to find:

  • Journal articles
  • Electronic books
  • Images
  • Guidelines
  • Monographs
  • Clinical Trials
  • Videos
  • Patient Education
  • Procedure Consult

Smart Search

ClinicalKey’s Smart Search uses autosuggest, which shows a list of terms related to what the user types. It also recognizes acronyms and synonyms, making searching easier. ClinicalKey has incorporated some minor changes in the last two years. For instance, whether focusing on ebooks, journal articles, images, guidelines, etc., users have the option to select the source type, specialties, and the date to narrow down the results. The results can be sorted by relevance, which means the most up-to-date and relevant results appear on the search page and users have the option to rate the results by answering questions about whether or not the results were useful. In addition to providing relevant and up-to-date results, Smart Search also allows users to save searches and view their search history.


ClinicalKey users have the option to narrow their search results by source type, study type, date, and specialty. The options include the nine sources listed above and more.

One of the helpful features when searching books in ClinicalKey is the option to search for a term on a page or within the book. The term is highlighted wherever it appears on a page or within the book, eliminating the need to scan a page or the book for the term. Demonstrations by medical librarians of this feature for students and physicians are extremely helpful.

For journal articles, users have the option to select full text only or full text and MEDLINE. Journal articles can also be narrowed down to systematic reviews, meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, or narrative reviews.

Images give users the option to view photographs, charts, and graphs. Videos are also available in some cases.

Patient education provides access to information about a clinical condition appropriate for lay persons, and it is often available in English and Spanish.

Users also can access the latest information on clinical trials, guidelines, drug monographs, procedure consult, and first consult.

The filters are especially useful when students, physicians, and other healthcare professionals want to limit their search results to a certain source or study type. Medical librarians can provide instruction on using these filters to refine search results.

PDF book chapters

After registering for a ClinicalKey account, users can download a PDF of a book chapter, making it readily available for users who prefer to read a chapter or sections of a chapter later. This is a great feature for medical librarians to discuss in library instruction sessions when asking users to register for a ClinicalKey account.

Mobile App

The ClinicalKey mobile app allows users the convenience of searching from their mobile devices. The mobile app is easy to use and has the same features for searching ClinicalKey.

Purchasing ClinicalKey

Institutions or hospitals interested in purchasing ClinicalKey can contact an Elsevier representative to learn more about pricing and available discounts.

Final thoughts

ClinicalKey is a useful tool for students, physicians, and other healthcare professionals who need an efficient way to search and access relevant clinical information. ClinicalKey is a great option for medical/health sciences libraries that support these healthcare professionals.


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