MDConsult and ClinicalKey

Much was posted on Medlib-l when Elsevier announced their decision to drop MDConsult for ClinicalKey.  I can’t say that I am surprised by the decision because I didn’t really see the company keeping both products in tandem especially when it appears that ClinicalKey ate MDConsult’s content (and then some).

In August I wrote a brief review of ClinicalKey on my blog, and a longer more extensive (and more directed at doctors) review on

A few things have changed and have been updated since August and since the latest news of MDC’s departure I thought I would provide an updated brief review focusing a little bit on the differences between MDC and CK.

MDConsult had a core collection/subscription as well as specialty collections/subscriptions.  I have heard rumors and conjectures that ClinicalKey might split up their ginormous collection according to subjects.  If this were the case I would assume (total speculation!!) that the ClinicalKey core would be the entire kit and caboodle while their specialty parts would broken down by subject.  As I mentioned, this is pure guessing on my part, I have no insider knowledge and the idea that CK might be split up and sold in parts is just rumor.  However it were true it would be very helpful to community and smaller hospitals who might find the sheer quantity of information within CK to be overwhelming.  Really libraries will have to look at their usage stats for MDC to see if it even warrants thinking of CK as an option.  I know of some hospital libraries that just don’t use MDC enough so it would be very tough for them to justify CK.

MDC has many online textbooks, but CK has a lot more (approximately 1000 titles).  As I mentioned in a Medlib-l post there are some titles in MDC that are NOT in CK, but they are fewer than 10.  Diane Bartoli, VP, Global Product Development, responded to my Medlib-l post that there are only 9 titles not in CK.  Since we only subscribed to MDC’s core collection I wasn’t exactly sure how many were not in CK (I mentioned we noticed about 8) so I was hesitant to also include in the Medlib-l email that I noticed some of those titles were old.  That falls in line with Diane’s comment that those titles (ones not in CK) did not meet their standard for current, premium clinical content.
Khatri’s Operative Surgery Manual (2003) being replaced with Khatri’s Atlas of Advanced Operative Surgery (2012) is a great example. The title list of CK books can be found here (click on Master Content List). 

With 500 journal titles, CK carries many more journal titles than MDC. However, the backfiles for CK do not go as far back as MDC.  Most CK titles only go back to 2007 which is a significant backfile loss to any library that planned their journal subscriptions around MDC.  Determining whether you need to go as far back as MDC did and the rest of your current journal subscription needs will require very careful planning and attention to license agreements from your Elsevier journal providers if you decide to move forward with CK. 

The PDF login requirement is one of the more significan’t changes since my last review.  Thankfully Elsevier removed the requirement for full text journal articles and they worked with several libraries to improve HTML access to the book chapters and lessen confusion surrounding logging into the PDF.  However institutional users still are required to login using their personal login to access the PDF of books. 

The PDF login issue, is one that I think librarians and Elsevier will just have to agree to disagree on.  Diane mentions according to their data that the PDF login requirement isn’t a deterrent.  Yet librarians are fielding calls and emails from users on accessing the PDF.  A library would have to look at their MDC usage stats for the books that are both in MDC and CK and compare them to their use in CK.  It does no good to look at the aggregate PDF stats for CK’s books when they have so many more titles than MDC.  To get a true picture of whether the PDF login is a deterrent, librarians also need at least 6 months to 1 years worth of data.  Without having 6 months to 1 years worth of CK data, it is difficult to make a definitive conclusion as to whether it is truly a barrier.  Perhaps somebody will think to look in 6 -12 months and see the usage and report back.  Would be interesting poster for a meeting?

I reported on Medlib-l that the displayed listing of titles across web browsers is erratic. Clearly it was a file upload and certain browsers just didn’t know what to do with apostrophes.  Additionally, some titles include the author in the title while others don’t.  The MDC title list is definitely cleaner and easier to browse through.  However, Diane did report that they will be fixing these formatting issues in the next release.  Equally helpful is that they will be adding an “enhanced author title search function” to make it easier for people to find specific books via title or author.  This feature is planned for the Q2 release. 

Special textbook content is in CK not in MDC.  Recently there was a big discussion on Medlib-l regarding online only content and printed texts. The original poster was complaining about an LWW book.  But this practice is common across several publishers including Elsevier.  We have purchased several printed text books where important parts of the book are “missing” and only available online.  Some examples of missing pieces: chapter missing from printed book is only available online, references online only, updates online only, etc.  In Elsevier books this content was available via a scratch off code for use on StudentConsult, ExpertConsult, etc.  The content was NOT in MDC.  However, in CK all of the “missing” content that was only available via StudentConsult or ExpertConsult is in CK. 

MDC did not have an app and so far there is no CK app. So they are about the same from that perspective.  However as Diane mentions CK will be mobile optimized soon.  That should be very helpful as mobile devices are invading the work place.  For people who have FirstConsult or who have Clinical Key, and want to use FirstConsult as an app.  It is free and just needs your personal login (FirstConsult, ClinicalKey, MDconult valid users).  Curiously if you have a Science Direct login and you have ClinicalKey, your login could be your Science Direct login.  That might be confusing for some people.

I want to say that I really appreciate Diane’s response to my Medlib-l post.  It was very informative.  I just wanted update my brief review and MDC vs CK comparison on my blog because I know some people don’t subscribe to Medlib-l. 


6 thoughts on “MDConsult and ClinicalKey”

  1. For those of us poor, private practice IM specialists who used to get MDC free through Merck Medicus, I just looked into purchasing an individual subscription CK and now find that I would have to get one limited to my subspecialty. If I want to look up references in any other subspecialty, I would need to purchase another module at $500-600 more. This makes no sense to me. My institution does not have a subscription.

  2. That is important. I did purposely not include that because they are in the process of getting it in LinkOut. From what I was told Elsevier submitted the necessary stuff to NLM, now NLM is working on it.
    So while it isn’t currently available, it will be eventually.
    But I can completely understand the importance of it being in there. Kind of wish both parties (Elsevier and NLM) started the process earlier so it would be available when it launched. I can also understand libraries not wanting to subscribe until it is in LinkOut. LinkOut is a huge driver of usage stats because on a basic level not having it in LinkOut is like subscribing to a journal and not providing the full text link to it anywhere but the exact publisher’s site.

  3. Yes, thanks for so much information. I got a call from my Elsevier rep yesterday and we’re going to schedule a meeting to talk all of this over. If I get anything new, I’ll post it to Medlib-L.

  4. Hi Krafty – for the individual market, specialty packages already exist:

    I know that doesn’t translate to institutional subs, but the contents are listed per specialty, so it might give some idea of want specialty content packs would look like.

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