May 18

Health Literacy Assessment Tool: Newest Vital Sign

Not new, but new to me.
The Newest Vital Sign

The Newest Vital Sign is based on a nutrition label from an ice cream container. Patients are given the label and then asked 6 questions about how they would interpret and act on the information contained on the label.

Specifically, the patient is handed a copy of the nutrition label and then asked a series of 6 questions about it. Patients can and should retain the label so they can refer to it while answering questions. It is not necessary to give the patient time to review the label before asking the questions. Rather, they will review the label as they are asked and answer the questions.

The questions are asked orally and the responses recorded by a clinical staff member on a special score sheet, which contains the correct answers. Based on the number of correct responses, the health care provider can assess the patient’s health literacy level.

You can order yours here.

Yes, it is created by Pfizer- but they’ll send you a copy of the peer-review study of the Newest Vital Sign (or you can snag it yourself here).

More about NVS:

[via BHIC]

May 17

New NEJM Interactive Feature: “Clinical Decisions”

From The Boston Globe:

For the first time, physicians will be asked to weigh in on what they would do for a patient, based on research papers published in the current issue and what they read about a fictitious case. Their choices will be tallied online for four weeks and their comments posted in an experiment to better connect with readers, editor-in-chief Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen (left) said in an interview.


First up in the Journal is the case of a 30-year-old woman with mild persistent asthma who wonders if she should change her medications. The vignette is followed by three choices and an essay to support each option. Readers can make their picks and explain why online.

Okay, that sounds like a good idea…subscribers feel engaged and let the NEJM (and their colleagues) know what they think. It results in a feature that is generated by user feedback. That’s fine, I guess- but is it really any different from when CNN or Fox News set a question and invite viewers to call in with their opinions?

This part in particular threw me:

“Evidence-based medicine is somewhat of an illusory thing,” he said. “Very few patients fit the inclusion criteria for a clinical trial. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle when the pieces don’t quite fit.”

Poll results from clinicians may add another piece of information about how clinical decisions are made.

“We hope to learn from them as well as having them learn from us,” Drazen said.

Does this confuse anyone else? How would a non-scientific poll of self-selected participants aid EBP efforts?

It is entirely possible (read: likely) that I’m just missing something here, so please do feel free to leave a comment and school me.

[via Kevin, M.D.]

May 17

STD Wizard

Somehow, I never thought that “STD” and “Wizard” would be paired, but they are in this online STD screening tool.

The idea of the site is to help advise users what their degree of risk is and what sort of screening or treatment to seek.

It uses clear (sometimes colloquial) language and illustrations (like a photo of pubic lice eggs) to make sure the user understands the questions- and that’s great. What I’m fascinated by, though, are the unrelated images that accompany each question. This question about an itchy pubic area comes with a photo four teens drinking milkshakes:

STD Wizard

Thanks to the Hedgehog Librarian for the heads up!

May 15

Three More Blogs Displaying the MedLib Blog Badge

Three more blogs are displaying the MedLib Blog and therefore merit mention.

First is the previously mentioned anonymous blog from “Ratcatcher,” OMG Tuna is Kewl. As promised, she added the badge:


(I’ll take this opportunity again to mention that Ratcatcher must blog anonymously because her employer will not allow her to blog under her own name- I’ll vouch for the fact that Ratcatcher is a degreed medical librarian at a very respectable institution.)

Second is the new iLib blog from the Health Sciences Library at Stony Brook University.


iLib seems to be updated infrequently thus far and I’m a little curious why it is neither located at the same domain as the library’s Web site nor linked-to from the library’s Web site- but it would be really great to have a strong blog from the perspective of an academic medical library, so I have high hopes.

Third is the Saskatoon Health Region Medical Library blog.

Reminder to the SHL: Be sure to add your blog to the Master list! 🙂

Why is David so into this badgey stuff?
Previously, I’ve noted the following blogs that display the MedLib Blog badge in their sidebars:

If I’ve missed the badge on your blog or if you’ve just added it, please let me know so I can link to you from here.

Why would I want to add the badge to my blog?

The badge links back to the masterlist of MedLib blogs to indicate the blog’s membership in the growing community (and sense of community) of MedLib blogs(/bloggers). (This should serve also as a reminder to add your blog to this masterlist, if appropriate.)

To add this badge to your own blog, just copy and paste this code:

<a href="">
<img src=""></a>

Not sure how to do this with your particular blogging software? Email me at david[DOT]rothman[AT]gmail[DOT]com and we’ll figure it out together. :)

May 15

Physician Blogging in the News, Physician Blogger in the Hospital

Three items about physician blogging:

Paging Dr. Blog: Online discourse raises questions
USA Today, 5/13/2006
Kim Painter

Family Medicine Meets the Blogosphere: An introduction to blogs may help take the fear out of the blogosphere.
Family Practice Management, May 2007
Mitchell L. Cohen, MD

Nothing new in either one of these for those who actually read physician blogs, but it is nice to be able to point to these to help explain some of the blogs I follow.

Speaking of physician blogs I follow, Scott at Polite Dissent (previously mentioned here) has had what his wife describes as “a minor myocardial infarction (heart attack).” I love Scott’s blog and I know that I’m only one of a great number of readers who wishes Scott a full, speedy and comfortable recovery.

May 14


I’ll bet BibMe will be a big hit on college campuses in the fall.

Welcome to BibMe! The fully automatic bibliography maker that auto-fills. It’s the quickest way to build a works cited page. And it’s free.

  1. Search for a book, article, website, or film from our database, or enter the information yourself.
  2. Add it to your bibliography.
  3. Download your bibliography in either the MLA, APA, or Chicago formats and include it in your paper.


BibMe was developed as part of a Software Development project course in the Information Systems department of Carnegie Mellon University. Team Exibeans worked on this project during the spring semester of 2007, spending roughly 15 weeks building the system. Using a slick combination of Ruby on Rails and AJAX, we were able to create a bibliography generating application and provide you with this great service for free!

Works pretty well, though I had problems finding newspaper articles by title.

May 14

Combined Blog Feeds by Medical Specialty

Dr. Ves Dimov at Clinical Cases and Images writes:

It would be nice to have feed “pipes” (similar to Yahoo Pipes) of blogs in different specialties:

– A feed pipe with general medicine blogs
– A feed pipe with hospitalist blogs
– A feed pipe with cardiology blogs
– A feed pipe with nephrology blogs, etc.

What are medical libraries for if not attempting to fulfill the information wants of clinicians?

We’ll do this with help from MedWorm.

MedWorm Logo

A feed pipe with general medicine blogs

MedWorm Blog Category: Internists and Doctors of Medicine

A feed pipe with hospitalist blogs

MedWorm Query: hospitalist* OR “hospital medicine”

A feed pipe with cardiology blogs

MedWorm Query: cardiolog*

A feed pipe with nephrology blogs

MedWorm Blog Category: Urologists and Nephrologists

There’s lots more in MedWorm’s Blog Directory, like:

Psychiatrists and Psychologists

Emergency Medicine



If you want to see what blogs make up each category, click on the Sources tab- this will show you what medical blogs make up the category and when each was last updated:
Peds Blog Sources

Do you know of good medical blogs that don’t appear to be indexed by MedWorm? Be sure to get ’em added!

May 12

Reciprocal Blogroll

The following self-involved nonsense has just about nothing to do with the subjects for which most read this blog. If you’re not a blogger, you can probably ignore this post, confident that it contains nothing worth your time.

I’ve been fretting for almost a year about blogging propriety, blogrolls and this blog.

I wanted to have a blogroll in a sidebar, but worried that I might rudely offend someone by exclusion or end up creating an absurdly huge blogroll. I have about 450 feeds in my aggregator- no idea, offhand, what number of those are blogs.

At the same time, there are a number of bloggers who have flattered me by adding this blog to their blogrolls, and I worried that failure to reciprocate could also be seen as rude.

I’ve finally decided that my blogroll would be solely reciprocal.

If is in your blogroll, your blog is about some sort of related topic, and you’re neither a charlatan nor running a splog, let me know so I can add your blog to my Reciprocal Blogroll on the right sidebar of (my email address is in the right sidebar of In the unlikely event that this blogroll gets too large, I’ll revisit the topic and reconsider.

reciprocal blogroll


May 11

Friday Fun: A bit of Fry and Laurie, Library Sketch

A scene from A Bit of Fry and Laurie:

Embedded flash video above. If you are reading this in an aggregator, you may need to visit to the site to view the video.

I continue to be surprised how many fans of House, MD hadn’t previously heard of Hugh Laurie (or the wonderful Stephen Fry).

Wikipedia: A Bit of Fry and Laurie
BBC Guide to Comedy: A Bit of Fry and Laurie

May 11

Tips on Teaching MEDLINE

The Krafty Librarian asked for suggestions on teaching MEDLINE and Ratcatcher answered with a number of thoughts on the topic.

Among other things, Ratcatcher mentions this great self-paced tutorial from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.


May 10

Annotate Web pages with SharedCopy

I have used CiteBite a number of times here to link not only to a page, but a particular string of text highlighted on that page. I love CiteBite and find it incredibly useful.

But what if I want to do more than link to a highlighted passage on a page? What if I want to link to an annotated page? That’s what SharedCopy is for.

Here’s a marked-up version of Meredith Farkas’ blog.

SharedCopy is easy to use and has bookmarklets for both public and private markups. This would perhaps be useful for instructional purposes or for collaboration on design. You could even mark up a full text article like this one.

Because SharedCopy turns URLs into links, it is easy to insert a link to PubMed search results for additional reading on a facet of the article.

May 10

Interactive Anatomy of the Heart

I think it is meant to just be a demonstration of what this technology can do, but this interactive anatomy of the heart is really neat. Might make a great patient education tool, too. Much cooler than the physical models of the heart I’ve seen on the desks of cardiologists.

I did a quick video capture and uploaded to Google Video:

Go try it.
(Requires Java)

May 10 (Third-Party PubMed Tool)

The more I play with, the more I like it.

Say you want to post a link to the PubMed abstract for PMID: 12472752. The appropriate gigantic URL would be:


But lets us shorten that to:
(Get it? The URL is[Your PMID].)

If we want to fetch two abstracts, we can do that by adding a “+” and the second PMID:
([First PMID]+[Second PMID])

We can even retrieve three abstracts this way:
([First PMID]+[Second PMID]+[ThirdPMID])

Or we can fetch articles related to PMID 17146093:
([your PMID])

You can even run a (simple) search with
([First search term]+[Second search term])

You can also look for (/link to) full-text articles (though I still prefer PubMed Gold for this purpose):
([Your PMID])

But these aren’t even the coolest thing about The coolest thing about is the batch search, which runs multiple searches simultaneously so the user can compare counts of hits. The default demonstration search is a great illustration, but I thought I’d try one of my own.

In the Search for: field, I enter:

colitis OR “ulcerative colitis” OR crohns OR crohn’s OR “crohns disease” OR “crohn’s disease” OR “inflammatory bowel disease” OR IBD

In the AND with: field, I enter:

probiotics OR prebiotics
probiotics AND prebiotics runs these four searches, gives me a link to each set of results, and will count the number of hits in each.

There’s no indication on the site of who created and and why (although the domain appears to be registered by Terry Bird of Palatine, IL). I just want to know to whom my thank-you card should be sent.

Other posts about third-party PubMed tools:

May 09

Free Stuff via RSS

Everyone loves free stuff, right? Here are a few feeds you can subscribe to in order to keep up with offers of free (or really inexpensive) stuff.

Free Software:
Giveaway of the Day

Every day we offer licensed software you’d have to buy otherwise, for free! Yes, we are giving away software, and you can download it from our site, right now and right here and our goal is to give away every good piece of software, sooner or later.

(Some of the software is pretty good, some of it isn’t. I subscribe to the feed and check it daily.)

Free (or really inexpensive- $5 or less) geek stuff:
Free After Rebate

All kinds of stuff:
Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder

May 08

More on JournalReview (Digg for Medical Literature, Part 6.5)

I’m grateful to Jeff Ellis for providing some clarification and additional information in response to my previous post on

I criticized JournalReview for not having feeds. It turns out that it DOES have feeds- the problem it that they’re hard to find. Jeff writes: was our assumption (perhaps incorrectly)… that users who where techi enough to want an RSS feed are using a browser that automatically detects them. If you visit any of our specialty pages with a browser capable of detecting an RSS feed… you will see ours throughout the site.

When I first checked out JournalReview, I was at work using IE6 and could not have known there were feeds available unless I viewed the source. I strongly urge Jeff to clearly advertise the presence of RSS feeds as a feature.

Jeff also let me know about other cool community communication features:

If you sign up at, and discuss an article where the author has provided a corresponding e-mail, you will have the option to CC your comment to the author. See attached photo.

In addition, if other members have started to discuss this article – they too will be notified of additional comments left on an article. In this way… we too notify users of updates who are actively discussing an article.

We are setting up a section of user preferences where any user can “monitor” any article, set of articles, or search term for updates… and this too should be live in the coming months.

Whats more… is that not only do we contact the author of an article, but we contact up to 15 experts on that specific topic. Our goal is to call the world experts together to discuss the literature, answer questions, and make progress through the world of scientific publication.

This is all pretty cool and pleasantly different from other sites of this kind, but completely invisible to a new user. Now my largest complaint about is that it does a poor job of tooting its own horn. 😉

Thanks so much for the follow-up, Jeff!

Related Posts

JournalReview: Digg for Medical Literature, Part VI (Digg for Medical Literature, Part V)

MediNews: Digg for Medical Literature, Part IV

Dissect Medicine: Spanish and German Editions

More notes on BioWizard (Digg for Medical Literature, Part 3.5)

BioWizard Enhancements: ‘Digg for Medical Literature’ Part III (Edited)

Dissect Medicine: ‘Digg for Medical Literature’, Part II

BioWizard: The start of ‘Digg for Medical Literature’?

May 07

German Language Medical Wiki?

Benedikt Aichinger at eHealth in Austria reports that this is a German Language Medical Wiki.

If a reader able to translate from German to English were to let me know the following information, I’d like to add it to the list of medical wikis:

Intended Audience/Users:
Editorial Policies:

Benedikt, would you perhaps be willing to translate?

May 07

List of Medical Wikis Enhanced

I read a number of comments suggesting that it should be more than a list of links, so the List of Medical Wikis now contains some information about each wiki listed. Check it out here.


Yeah, I considered creating a Wiki about medical Wikis, but the meta-ness of it hurt my head. This will suffice for now.