Jul 29

Online Social Networks in Healthcare & Libraries (slides)

Another great overview from Patricia Anderson:

Above: Those reading via RSS aggregator may need to visit the site to view the embedded slideshow.

Posts from this blog about online social networks

Jul 28


pubmedpdflogo.pngI’ve previously posted about commercial applications for managing PDF files that access PubMed for article metadata (including iPapers, Papers, Sente, BibDesk, and Librarian) but I just stumbled across a new (to me) open source option called PubMedPDF.

Built on the open-source content management system XOOPS (XOOPS Cube fork), PubMedPDF “…is a Document Management System which provides various useful functions. This uses ID which is used in the PubMed Database to automatically generate paper information. If the paper you want to register has that ID, you don’t have to input any information.”

Also of interest to Mac users is the BioMed Lab Portal Server Package.

Jul 23

MedLib Blog Badge at Laika’s MedLibLog

This blog was started as part of the online course SPOETNIK on NEW (web 2.0) internet communication methods for librarians. I will not only blog the course exercises but will also write about Medical Information, Medical Libraries, PubMed, the Cochrane Collaboration, Evidence Based Medicine etc.. Sometimes in English.


Why is David always on about this badgey stuff? Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

Previously, I’ve noted the following blogs that display the MedLib Blog badge in their sidebars:

These blogs are:

  1. about medical / health / health sciences / biomedical librarianship;
  2. written by (a) medical librarian(s) or medical library paraprofessional(s);
  3. maintained by a medical library; or
  4. maintained by professional association of medical librarians and/or medical library paraprofessionals.

Hey! My blog has the MedLib Blog badge and you haven’t featured it here!

Sorry! I do try for omniscience, but frequently fall short of this goal. 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 it 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:

Not sure how to do this with your particular blogging software? Email me and we’ll figure it out together.

Jul 21

Physician Rating Sites (Guest post by PilgrimTinker)

The following is a guest post written by PilgrimTinker (a pseudonym for a consumer health information librarian who regularly blogs at Learn to Live.

So, you need to see a doctor. Or, you have been seeing a doctor for some time and love her, or can’t stand her, or secretly suspect him of not paying appropriate attention to your complaints or wonder if he knows anything about geriatrics. Whatever the initial question, you decide to google him. And you discover that there are dozens of physician rating websites available, ready to help you dig up dirt or make a choice or trash a reputation.

Have you guessed yet that I am feeling ambivalent about these sites? I am. On one hand, it makes perfect sense to be able to research a physician or facility before you choose them for your health care. It’s responsible health care consumerism. On the other hand, doctors aren’t used cars and the complexity of medicine and the nature of the relationship between a patient and a physician cannot be portrayed with a simple matrix.

With these considerations aside, another difficulty in assessing physician rating websites is the large number and variety of choices. Here I offer a sampling, by no means exhaustive but more of a snapshot. I’ve looked at many more and chosen these as fairly representative.

First, there are physician directories, offered by government sources or various medical associations. These will verify an affiliation or specialty, board certifications, and contact information. They don’t offer much or anything in the way of user satisfaction but will verify professional credentials and provide a list of practitioners in a geographic area or at a particular facility. For a good start finding this kind of directory, try MedlinePlus GoLocal, the US Dept of Health and Human Service’s HospitalCompare or the AMA’s DoctorFinder.

Now for that more problematic category, the sites that encourage patients to publish their opinions and experiences and to surf what others have already posted. Let’s take a look at a few.

RateMDs.com makes posting ratings very easy- no need to sign in or create an account. The comments are completely anonymous, though they are read by the moderators and may be removed or edited. This is a fairly common policy on physician rating sites. The site uses a smiley face system, based on 2 questions: Is the doctor helpful and Is the doctor knowledgeable.

The downfall of this simplicity is that the faces become meaningless; as demonstrated by the comments for an obstetrician I saw in another city long, long ago. Several can be summed up by “he save my life, we wouldn’t be here if not for him” while others amounted to “he doesn’t answer questions, I would never recommend him, he is uncaring”. The only way I can imagine a site like useful is if there were thousands of comments per physician before they were displayed and the questions were more skillfully stated, allowing the number of responses to create a trend.

DrScore.com is also easy to use and invited me to rank my doctor on a scale of 0 to 10, with an option to post up to 40 words worth of commentary. They encourage raters to note “particularly good things you noticed about the visit” and that “Ratings and comments submitted to DrScore are designed to give feedback to physicians to help them enhance their medical practice.” This is a different and much more positive twist on the usual protect-yourself-by-digging-up-the-dirt approach to promoting physician rating venues. The process included more questions rated 0 to 10 such as time spent with the doctor, if and how well the doctor answered questions, treatment options offered, treatment success and ease of communication with the entire practice. The search works best for those checking ratings of an individual so it took several tries to get a list of physicians in one city to browse by score. The scores are divided into category and displayed on a 0-10 scale, providing a more nuanced profile than RateMD.com’s smilies.

Vitals also allows for consumer ratings of physicians but gathers information from medical boards, federal websites, hospitals, doctors, surveys, business alliances and third party affiliates. I found this search interface to be the easiest to use and the results display very slick. There are several interactive features that actually work, such as a compare box that displays choices side by side and an alert feature for changes to a profile.

Results are divided into sections including specialty, hospital affiliation, education and publications, with links and mapping features.

The rating feature asked only 7 questions with a final overall assessment; asking patients to respond from disagree strongly to agree strongly. This leads to the same limitations as the other sites data, but there are several reasons I like this site better. One is the 360 vitals view, diagrammed on the about us page. It is divided into thirds for empirical information, consumer ratings and peer reviews. The site encourages consumers to think more broadly about what makes a good physician. The search interface and results were much better than any others I’ve seen. Every feature I tried worked as I had hoped, never asking me to sign in, pay for a report or requiring me to use a series of those annoying drop down choice boxes.

But seriously, what about that elusive quality, hotness? Yes, there is a website for that particular aspect of a physician’s fitness to practice and I found it, thanks to an ad on WebMD. PharmaStats promises plenty, including a special icon to alert us when a hot physician has been identified. Unfortunately, the site didn’t deliver- results only included the most basic yellow pages contact information and the chance to “register for more results”

While we are on the subject of unfair or irresponsible ratings, I can’t quite classify The Healthcare Scoop.com. At first, I thought maybe I wasn’t on the home page but found that yes, it is simply a list of random posts with no format at all. Or, as they describe it, “Real, straight-forward information – written and shared by people just like you – about personal healthcare experiences.” Patients simply create an account and post a story, which is then immediately posted. The site also includes ads and a few search features (by doctor, by facility) but doesn’t organize the collected information in any other way.

There are several websites that charge fees for reports about individual physicians, including Angie’s List and HealthGrades, which wanted me to buy a report to see Disciplinary action, board certification, phone numbers and much more! These seem to be the least useful and most likely to prey on those easily frightened by contorted statistics in headlines.

What exactly do you need to know to intelligently choose a doctor? Their clinical proficiency? Quality of their office service? Bedside manner? Personal experiences and biases? What they learned from their first surgery experience and how they responded to their first death? How many journals they read and if they know about the latest advances in medical genomics? What about if they are willing to prescribe antibiotics over the phone for your niece? Will any of these sites allow you to determine if your physician is well educated, experienced and open minded, willing to listen and think and to use her hands to keep you as healthy as possible for as long as possible?

Surf all day if you like, but I’ll have to default to what is emerging as my personal take on the whole health 2.0 movement- thanks, it is nice and I’m glad to partake but there is nothing like the human touch. Give me my blink moment, when that young pup/pretty face/tanned golfer reveals with an indefinable gesture or prescient connection that they have heard me, and even better, that they have a plan for me. Medicine is practiced face to face, so ultimately, it is the face to face assessment that will convince me of a physician’s worth.


Interested in writing a guest post while David is on paternity leave? Send your submission to:

Jul 20

This Blog is (over) Two Years Old

Aw. Because Simon arrived a bit early, I failed to note this blog’s second blogaversary earlier this month.

I’ll eventually get back to regular posting (perhaps when Simon is sleeping longer hours?), but I wanted briefly to thank y’all for reading. It wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without you.

Some facty-figurish things:

There are currently 1,024 posts (which makes an average of more than 9 posts/week for the last two years) and 2,115 comments.

Akismet has caught 148,927 spam comments. Wow. Helps me love Akismet.

Feed Subscribers (via FeedBurner):

Jul 16

PubMed Search Clinic (Guest Post by Nikki)

Hello, this is Nikki from Eagle Dawg Blog stepping in while David enjoys time with his beautiful family. Here is a friendly reminder that a 30 minute PubMed search clinic will be offered tomorrow (July 17th) at 2pm Eastern time (what time is that throughout the world?) by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Training Center and Clearinghouse (NTCC) to the first 300 participants to log in at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/disted/clinics/pmupdate08.html Please note the following from NLM about questions you have during the search clinic:

The Chat (Q & A) Pod:
Because of the size of this clinic, we unfortunately will not be able to take questions using audio. Please use the Chat (Q & A) pod to type questions and comments to the trainers. Please enter your questions throughout the presentation, as you think of them. Your question will be visible only to you and the trainers, unless the trainers choose to display your question and an answer to all participants. The trainers will answer the questions that seem helpful to all participants verbally, at the end of the clinic. Others may be answered individually via the Chat pod. If the answer requires additional research or we run out of time, the trainers will contact you via e-mail following the clinic and/or post the responses to the clinic’s Web site.

If you have not used Adobe® Connect™ before (or since they acquired Macromedia Breeze), check that you have the most recent free Adobe Flash update (version 9.0.124) as using 9.0.115 and earlier versions may result in audio problems while accessing the archive later on. I recommend viewing the recent ‘Awakening the Searcher Within’ seminar series from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Northwest Region (NN/LM PNR) archive both as a way to test your audio and see how the chat pod is used in Adobe® Connect™ in addition to reviewing some great search strategies.

Check out Krafty Librarian’s post for background on what others have blogged about the Automatic Term Mapping (ATM) changes in PubMed. Some modifications to the recent ATM formatting were made on July 2nd to have the ATM not include individual word searches in all fields for multi-word substances and MeSH headings that include individual numbers or letters. I probably sound like a broken record, but please do continue sending in your concise feedback to NLM as user requests are what drive changes to their resources. Hope to see you at the search clinic!


Interested in writing a guest post while David is on paternity leave? Send your submission to: