May 1, 2007


Posted in Consumer Health, Rants, Reference Resources, Web 2.0 / Medical Library 2.0 at 12:49 pm by Alexia

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.


March 23, 2007

Why this comic hits too close to home…

Posted in Consumer Health, Library promotion, Rants at 10:18 am by Alexia

Heart of the City - March 23, 2007

Last October the Pew Internet & American Life Project published a report regarding behaviors of Internet users searching for health information (emphasis mine):

Eighty percent of American internet users, or some 113 million adults, have searched for information on at least one of seventeen health topics. Most internet users start at a general search engine when researching health and medical advice online. Just 15% of health seekers say they “always” check the source and date of the health information they find online, while another 10% say they do so “most of the time.” Fully three-quarters of health seekers say they check the source and date “only sometimes,” “hardly ever,” or “never,” which translates to about 85 million Americans gathering health advice online without consistently examining the quality indicators of the information they find. Most health seekers are pleased about what they find online, but some are frustrated or confused.

I read the above posted comic this morning, as I was updating the public Consumer Health Resource page at my hospital.  I have no idea how much this page is access, if at all (partially due to an IT department that doesn’t really care why I care about statistics) and was hoping I wasn’t updating the page for naught.  After all, getting to the page itself is an exercise in patience.  It takes clicking on no fewer than four links to get to the page and that is only if you know that you have to choose my particular hospitals page from the health system’s main page.  We are the only library in the system with enough staff to maintain an external web page for consumer health information seekers.

Translation – 75% of health information seekers don’t care if the information is right as long as it “looks like they did the work”.  85 million people thinking Krypton is a planet.  85 million people who probably don’t even know there are brick and morter or virtual consumer health libraries and librarians who are happy and willing to guide them to authorative, accurate health information.  85 million people whose local hospitals purchase “health library” packages for their web pages without consulting the librarians on staff.

So, as I sit here contemplating ideas for goals for the next fiscal year and wondering if partnering with local public libraries to teach critical appraisal skills to health information seekers would be worthwhile I see this report and think no – 75% of Internet users don’t care and feel the information is useful.  Then I think ignorance is no excuse and there has to be a way to reach the public.  It’s difficult for me to sit back and do nothing but I’m not exactly sure what we can do.  Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around me head:

  • Try to get a link to the consumer health resource page on the main system web site.
  • Brainstorm about ideas for getting marketing involved in promoting healthy Internet search skills.
  • Continue conteplating partnering with public libraries in the hospital’s community to teach healthy Internet search skills.

I would love to hear other ideas.

August 22, 2006

Article of Interest – Relationship of Internet Health Information Use With Patient Behavior and Self-Efficacy: Experiences of Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients Who Contact the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service

Posted in Articles of Interest, Consumer Health at 9:26 am by Alexia

A study recently published in the Journal of Health Communication shows that a new cancer diagnosis affects how a person uses the internet for health information.  Combine the results of this study to one done by Ruti Volk, librarian at the Cancer Center’s Patient Education Resource Center consumer health librarians have tangible proof stating what we librarians already new – librarians are the experts at information retreival.

The PEW Internet & American Life Project has a lot of information on Internet usage, including health information.  NLM has gone a long way in gathering reliable health information through but I believe there is more we can do.  A few years ago the library at my hospital offered classes on locating and evaluating health information on the Internet.  They were not well attended apparently (I was not employed here at that time) but I’m wondering if partnering with a public library to offer such a course would be a better option.

I also believe NLM and/or MLA should consider television advertising Medlineplus.  We’ve all seen add for WebMD, and just recently I saw an ad for a drug that at the end of the commercial directed views to go to their “unbiased” web site for health information.  Our profession needs to play with the big boys if we are to “prove” we are the best resource for finding, evaluating and disemminating information.  We cannot do this in small numbers.  Let’s take a page out of the “Got milk?”, “Pork, the other white meat”, and “Happy cows make good cheese” campaigns – let’s encourage MLA to go beyond Medspeak brochures and advertise where people are actually going to see it – on television.


August 11, 2006

Site of Interest – DailyMed

Posted in Consumer Health, Reference Resources at 8:17 am by Alexia

DailyMed, produced by the National Library of Medicine, is a resource geared towards the consumer.  It provides information about marketed drugs, including FDA approved labels.  Results can be printed or emailed.  All labels can be downloaded.  An RSS feed for the database is also available.  As a consumer, I would like to be able to subscribe to a particular medication but a general feed is better than no feed at all.  Not all drugs are listed yet, the site currently contains 565 drugs (as of 11 August 2006).  The site does direct you to Medlineplus to get more information.  There is a link for reporting an adverse event that takes you to the FDA website.

Any product for consumers coming out of NLM is a quality product and I’d recommend adding this link to any consumer health web site or page.