May 1, 2007
Okay, I’ll bite. The biblioblogosphere has brought to my attention a new consumer health tool called MEDgle (or hypochondria 2.0 in some circles). For a good review of signs and symptoms web sites visit David Rothman’s post on his blog. I’m not going to reinvent his wheel but I did want to discuss my test run of MEDgle.
First some background. I have a 9 year old son with physical challanges. He is hypotonic (low muscle tone) and ataxic. We’ve put him through more diagnostic tests than any child should ever have to go through and all we’ve been able to determine is what he doesn’t have. As an aside, none of the diseases my son was test for was listed as possible diagnoses on MEDgle.
So, off to MEDgle I go. I start by typing in hypotonic. There is no such symptom. Hmmm. I type in low muscle tone. Still nothing. I type in muscle. There are a lot of terms but none that mean low muscle tone. Low muscle tone is NOT muscle weakness. So, MEDgle fails me right from the start.
Ataxia is a term in MEDgle. My son has a disturbed gait. Abnormal gait it a “term”. So I search. The first possibility is corns and calluses. The third possibility is consequences of obesity (I checked that my son is NOT overweight on the initial search). CP is the fifth possibility and because it’s an “umbrella term” is the closest thing we have to an official diagnosis.
I did another search for headache, nausea and sensitivity to light and migraine came right up.
I was put off by MEDgle. It seems to be okay for common, run of the mill symptom combinations but that’s about it. The site claims it’s a “search engine” for medical information and should not be used to self-diagnose but with a symptom-driven search engine many people will. I will say the interface was easy to use but a down and dirty Google search of hypotonia +ataxia came up with more relevant sites than MEDgle.
While I think the Internet and World Wide Web has done much in terms of information sharing the lack of oversight and authoritative information for consumer health users is frightening and I’m not sure what health sciences libraries can really do about it. We can promote the heck out of librarians and sites such as MEDLINEPlus but since we can’t regulate who puts health information on the web and what information they put there the problem will always exist. I think the best we can hope to do is to educate the heck out of any consumer health library user that darkens our doorstep.