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MedlinePlus XML Files and Web Service Enhancements

From Naomi Miller, Manager, Consumer Health Information, National Library of Medicine

Today, the National Library of Medicine announced the release of several enhancements to the MedlinePlus XML files and Web service.  These enhancements make MedlinePlus XML data more robust, accessible, and flexible for users.

MedlinePlus XML files:

The MedlinePlus XML files are being published in a new format with a new DTD.  Prior to this release, the files only included basic information about all English and Spanish health topics, and they were published weekly.  Now, they contain all currently displaying site records and links to related multiple languages content, related health topics, and primary NIH institutes.  With this release, virtually all text and links available on MedlinePlus health topic pages become accessible in XML format.  MedlinePlus will update and publish the new MedlinePlus health topic XML files daily (Tuesday-Saturday) to correspond to the update schedule of the web site.

MedlinePlus Web Service:

The MedlinePlus Web service, which allows users to submit keyword queries and receive relevant health topics in XML format, now offers new features, parameters, content, and policies, including:

  • A Spanish version of the MedlinePlus Web service that accepts Spanish-language queries and responds with Spanish health topics.
  • Field searching for user queries.  Fields that can be searched this way are title, alt-title, mesh, full-summary, and group.
  • Multiple result formats: brief, topic, and all.  by default, results are returned in brief format.  The topic format returns the health topic results as full XML records with all associated data and links.  The XML format of the topic result type matches the format and DTD of health topics in the MedlinePlus XML files (as desribed above).  The all format returns health topics in both brief and topic format.
  • Two new optional parameters, email and tool that allow Web service users to specify a contact email address and the resource using the Web service, respectively.  Including these parameters in requests can assist NLM in providing better service and allows NLM to contact users if there are problems with their queries.
  • An acceptable use policy that sets a request rate limit at 85 requests per minute per IP address.  The new policy will help NLM ensure that the service remains available to all users.  The policy will be enforced using request throttling, which will begin in mid-July.

Publicly available documentation for the MedlinePlus XML files and Web service reflects the enhancements described above.  NLM encourages users of MedlinePlus data to subscribe to the MedlinePlus Web Service and XML Files email list to stay current on the latest changes and enhancements to these services.

Send the MedlinePlus team any questions or feedback via the “Contact Us” link that appears on any page.

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