UMHS Optimizes Drupal Search for their Find a Doctor App with Managed Solr


The University of Michigan’s Health System (UMHS) understands that patients need to be matched to the ideal provider. Finding a physician with the right skills, experience, and availability takes careful technical implementation.

With search in particular, doctors generally don’t use the same language as consumers. Patients have “heart attacks” while doctors term them “myocardial infarctions.” Mapping the terminology between patients and experts is a key part of the search experience. Since UMHS’s platform of choice is Drupal and Apache Solr is the recommended search engine for Drupal, they needed to find the best way to deploy and manage Solr on Drupal.

UMHS’s staff knew that directly searching the data in Drupal tends to deliver mediocre search results, plus the Drupal search API doesn’t allow for customizations needed to optimize the search experience. They also didn’t want the headaches from standing up and managing their own servers.


To solve these challenges UMHS partnered with OpenSource Connections (OSC) for their search relevance expertise and SearchStax for their Solr-as-a-Service platform. OCS developed a three-pronged approach to rapidly develop the first release of UMHS’s Find a Doctor search that involved SearchStax plus Headless Drupal plus Pre/Post Solr. The initial deployment of Solr search on Drupal was not going to be perfect so they used SearchStax Analytics to help them refine the search experience. Specifically, OSC noticed they could optimize the “doctor shopping” experience using insights from the Top Searches in SearchStax Analytics. Their optimizations improved the likelihood a patient shopping for a doctor would call and make an appointment.​


After modifications, they saw improvements immediately in the average click position of the search results. A Mean Reciprocal Rank (MRR) of 0.5 corresponds to an average click position of the second result, an MRR of 1.0 means the first result on average was clicked. After a single day of tuning, MRR increased from less than 0.4 to 0.6. Click depth in key specialty searches, like Ophthalmology, also dropped significantly.

SearchStax Search Analytics provided crucial insights into how search was performing and highlighted changes we could make to improve and optimize the search results. With some minor tweaking, we were able to increase the likelihood that a patient shopping for a doctor would call and make an appointment.

Web Project Manager

University of Michigan Health System

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