Mar 18

Patient Handouts at the Point of Care

My Primary Care Physician is a good guy.  His practice implemented an EMR a few years ago- each time I see him, I ask him how that’s going and he lets me see how it looks on the tablet PC he carries into the exam room.

My last visit was for an annual checkup a few weeks ago and we were talking about point-of-care tools and integration with his EMR.  It turns out that their EMR has no useful functionality to help find or produce patient education handouts he can quickly sent to a printer

I told him it would not be difficult to make a tool that would enable him to find authoritative handouts quickly and easily from the paid resources his practice has available, and he expressed interest in that idea.

He hasn’t followed up, but I found the idea interesting, so I started thinking about what sort of tool could be built for this purpose that could be integrated into any EMR using only patient handouts that are available at no cost on the Web.

With that in mind, I came up with a Google Custom Search Engine for use by providers at our hospital, but I see no reason why it couldn’t be used by any institution or practice.

The idea behind this is that any search result is not only authoritative, but that it is within a click of a “print” button.

There are built-in refinements for large print, pediatrics, Spanish language, Seniors, and low literacy.

Please give it a try here.

Internists and medical libraryfolk: I’d be grateful for your feedback!

Jul 31

Health Media CSE from Hunter College

Shawn McGinniss at Hunter College let me know that Hunter’s Health Professions Education Center created a Google Custom Search Engine for searching out “health-related videos and other interactive media.”

You can try it here.

According to the CSE’s main page:

Since many educational organizations and media outlets now host full-length content online, this custom search engine aims to make it easier to find quality educational content for students, faculty, and service providers in the health professions. Our goal is to quickly and efficiently locate videos, documentaries, podcasts, lectures, interactive flash content, and other educational media. Targeted topics include nursing, public health, medicine, physical therapy, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, epidemiology, medical lab sciences, communication sciences, psychology, etc.

Shawn also allowed me to post this list of the sites the CSE searches [XML] so you can see what sites his CSE searches. This allows you to not only build on or refine his work for your own purposes, but to suggest additional resources to Shawn (having checked that his CSE isn’t already searching ’em).

If you like, you can add this CSE to your iGoogle.

Jul 30

Family Practice POC Web Geekery

University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine physician Derek Hubbard, MD instructs family doctors on how to find clinical information [on the Web] at the point of care.

There are definitely some good tips for clinicians here, but a couple that make me a little uneasy (like using info from as a patient handout).

Dr. Hubbard might also be interested in using the Consumer Health and Patient Education Search Engine.

[Hattip: Ratcatcher]

Jan 15

More About the Book

So the book is getting some attention!

Internet Cool Tools for Physicians is in Google Book Search

Stephen Francoeur made this little video:

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the MLA mentioned it on their blog.

The MLA’s Taskforce on Social Networking Software posted about it, calling it “…an accessible, illustrated and contemporary guide to online tools in medicine.”

Laika, whose blog has quickly become one of my favorite MedLib blogs, mentioned it, as did Creaky.

I’m watching with interest to see which libraries are getting it (though Duke’s copy doesn’t show up yet).

Dr. Shock (MD, PhD) gave it a very nice review.

I’m lucky to count as friends people like Meredith Farkas and Michael Stephens, both of whom thought the book worthy of mention on their very popular blogs.

Gosh- Brandi blogged about it way back in August– well before it as released!

I’m pleased to see mention of it in languages other than English.

The President and CEO of Community General Hospital blogged about it.

It has gotten some buzz on Twitter.

We’re anxious to hear any feedback you have about the book- please let us know what you think….and what you think needs to be added or changed for the second edition! 🙂

Apr 21

Hakia’s Health Search

Hakia says they’re tapping the expertise of librarians. As CEO Dr. Riza C Berkan writes on the Hakia blog:

Every Web search starts with two queries. One is X. The other one is “who knows X the best?” Because finding X is not enough if the author of that page does not know X himself/herself. This will immediately resonate with you if you ever searched for medical, legal, or financial information for a serious case.

This was called the “credibility” criteria in the old world-order which has progressively vanished in the new age of Internet search engines. You enter X, and get the same “popular” perspective without distinction of credibility. You may recognize some of the sources, but are you an expert yourself about these things?

Ironically, there is a science for this. It is the science of libraries and librarians. That’s their job. They know what is credible, trustworthy, and commercially-unbiased.

So how does Hakia leverage librarian expertise? They say it is by indexing “quality sources” which are “taken from the Medical Library Association recommendations.”

That’s a great idea of where to start, but anyone could accomplish the same by making a Google CSE like this one. The Google Health Co-op greatly surpasses Hakia’s effort here by including a greater number of recommended sites and greater value from having more authoritative recommenders than just the MLA.

Also interesting is that Hakia has created a little micro-portal for each of the following sites:

PubMed –
World Health Org –
ClinicalTrials.Gov –
Centers for Disease Control –
The National Cancer Institute –
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute –

Mayo Clinic – –
Healthfinder –
HIV InSite –
Kidshealth –
Medem –
American Cancer Society
Cancer Care, Inc. –
Oncolink –
Women’s Cancer Network –
American Diabetes Assc. –
diabetes123 –
Children with Diabetes –
The Diabetes Monitor –
Joslin Diabetes Center –
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases –
American Heart Association –
Congenital Heart Information Network –
March of Dimes –

These are also interesting, but superior results could be achieved using existing tools. Rather than searching Hakia’s portal for the American Heart Association for myocardial infarction, we could more easily search Google for myocardial infarction and make use of Google’s further refinements from there.

Jan 19

OvidSP Resources

The Krafty Librarian has assembled a number of useful resources on OvidSP that should be helpful to those still working on transition plans.

You can also check out what other medical libraries are doing by searching the Medical Library CSE for ovidsp.

You could even seek out specific instructional materials by searching for Ovidsp (handout OR instructions OR “how to” OR training)

For what the biblioblogosphere has had to say about OvidSP, see this LibWorm search.

Jan 02

PogoFrog vs. the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner

(Please note that this post contains no links to PogoFrog’s domain. If you really want to find it, you can Google for it and find it very quickly, but I don’t want to give it any Google juice by linking to it.)

PogoFrog is a Google Custom Search Engine, like the Medical Library Search Engine and the Consumer Health and Patient Education Information Search Engine.

Here’s how PogoFrog describes itself:

“ jumps over the layman-focused clutter on the internet to find only credible medical information for physicians.”

So…PogoFrog’s schtick is that it skips over all that pesky consumer-oriented health information and zeroes in on information intended for medical professionals, right? But if one tries searching for “Ulcerative Colitis,” one finds that nine of the ten results on the first page are from consumer-oriented sites like MedlinePlus and

But if you REALLY want to use Google to look for physician-oriented resources, you’ll actually get more satisfying hits in the first ten listed results if you search for “ulcerative colitis” in regular Google. You can even select “For Health Professionals” at the top of those results to refine the search to sites tagged as oriented towards medical professionals by the participants of the Google Health Co-op.

The Google Health Co-Op has its problems, too- but it’s loads better than PogoFrog.

Not “Monetizing Social Search”
Dean Giustini describes PogoFrog as an attempt to “monetize social search.”

I disagree mostly because PogoFrog isn’t social. If it was one of those CSEs that allowed users to volunteer and collaborate, it would be social. It doesn’t…therefore isn’t.

Dean writes:

“PogoFrog also appears to want physician input, essentially another kind of social search.”

Asking for input or feedback from users does not make a service social. Lots of businesses invite users to suggest improvementsExamples would include KFC, Burger King, WalMart and LibWorm, but that doesn’t make their services social.

Dean also writes:

PogoFrog searches across American .gov and .edu sites in medicine but notice that there are Sponsored links to the right of every search page.

If you have a problem with these advertisements, you shouldn’t be using regular Google either- they’re the exact same sort of contextual advertisements you see along the side of the page when you perform a regular Google search.

The only other monetization I can find on PogoFrog (which benefits PogoFrog instead of Google) is on this page, well away from search results, where links to “sponsors” of PogoFrog are listed.

I wouldn’t have any problem with this kind of monetization either…if PogoFrog was a useful tool. The TRIP database has advertising and I don’t think it detracts from the usefulness of the site (which, by the way, is a bajillion times more usefulroughly estimated to a medical professional than PogoFrog). The advertisements aren’t disguised as content and can be ignored if not of interest to the user.

So the real problem with PogoFrog is that it is a lousy tool with many superior alternatives.

Dec 12

Medical Library Search Engine in your iGoogle …or Any Web Page

In reference to the medical library search engine, Martha Hardy wrote:

Hi David-

Thanks for putting together this useful custom search engine. Is it available as a Google gadget? It would be handy to add this to an iGoogle page.


Here y’go, Martha. Just click on this Add to Google thingee:

Want to add it to some other Web page? You can get the code here.

It’ll look something like this:

Dec 05

How to: Find Instructional Materials with the Medical Library CSE

A few days ago I made a Google Custom Search Engine for searching the Web sites of medical libraries.

Connie Schardt pointed out that it could be useful for finding handouts, tutorials and other teaching materials. Here are some ideas on how this might be done.

Your turn: What other searches would be useful?

Dec 02

Search Medical Library Web Sites

When I saw this list of Medical Library Sites, I couldn’t resist making a custom search engine that would search them all. You can give it a try here.


Nov 23

My Consumer Health CSE has been Federated

(Just for the record: My original title for this post was “I’m in Ur Feteratid Serch, Getin’ You Sum Consumr Helth Info,” but I figured that this would only amuse a handful of people and annoy everyone else. If the joke doesn’t make sense to you, check out ICanHasCheezburger.)

Back in August I was contacted by Sue Ostergren, Internet Systems Specialist at the Clarian Health Medical Library in Indianapolis.

Sue had the clever idea of of incorporating my Consumer Health and Patient Education Search Engine into her library’s Federated Search Engine (powered by WebFeat).

I didn’t think that she needed my permission, but I was delighted to give it anyway in exchange for a few screen captures of the CSE being used inside Clarian’s system. Because she rocks, Sue recently sent me those screen captures.

There are 12 resources that can be searched in Clarian’s system. In the screen capture below, “Consumer Health” (my CSE) is selected.

And below are some search results:

Thanks so much, Sue!

Previous posts on Google Custom Search Engines here

Nov 16

MedLib Blog Badge at Info Long-Term Care

Laurie Blanchard, B.A., MLS, a librarian at the University of Manitoba’s J.W. Crane Memorial Library, writes Info Long-Term Care, a “Current Awareness Service for health care practitioners in long-term and geriatric care.”

While you’re checking out her blog, take Laurie’s Google CSE for a test drive and Search geriatrics, gerontology and long-term care websites.

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:

<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. :)

Nov 13

Veritable Cornucopia of Custom Search Engines for Health Information

Neat! Google Operating System shows us that one can use this tool to search for Google Custom Search Engines (“CSEs”). Just by poking around for a few minutes, I found a bunch of CSEs of potential interest to medical libraryfolk. Here’s a small selection:

  • Paediatrics Search Engine

    Paediatrics Search Engine searches 35 sites, including:,,,,

  • Consumer Health Resources In Spanish

    Patient handouts and pamphlets on various health topics for Spanish speaking people
    Consumer Health Resources In Spanish searches 22 sites, including:,,,,

  • Women’s Health

    A search engine for information about women’s health issues
    Searches 4776 sites, including:,,,,

  • Evidence-based Medicine Search Engine for Healthcare Professionals

    Evidence-based Medicine Search Engine for Healthcare Professionals searches 251 sites, including:,,,,

  • Google Only For Medical Transcriptionists!

    Yes you got that right! This is Google exclusively for MTs. Search whatever fancies you – medical words, surgical equipment words, nurses’ names, doctors’ names, addresses, zip codes – you’ll find all of that here.
    Searches 246 sites, including:,,,,


    Searches 684 sites, including:,,,,

  • The Diabetes Search Engine

    Search 750+ sites about diabetes. These include: research; diabetes treatments; diabetes technology; more than 280 diabetes blogs; diabetes organizations; and more. If you have any questions about diabetes you’ll get the answers here.
    Searches 778 sites, including:,,,,

  • For health professionals (HON Search Engine)

    Verify or search HONcode accredited Web sites
    For health professionals searches 1988 sites, including:*,*,*,*,*

  • AZHealthInfo

    Arizona Health Resources from Arizona Health Sciences Library
    AZHealthInfo searches 4281 sites, including:,,,,

Does seeing these give you any ideas for a CSE you or your patrons might enjoy having? Take a stab at making one or share your idea here and see if someone else would like to build it. Google makes it easy to build them- the hard parts are coming up with the specialized need to fill and creating the list of URLs the CSE should search.

Sampling of previous posts about Google Custom Search Engines

Looking for more on CSE’s from Find it using this CSE!

Oct 20

Google CSE for “Netting the Evidence”

The Information Resources Section of the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield has put together a Google Custom Search Engine of interest to medical libraryfolk. According to Andrew Booth, Director of Information Resources & Reader in Evidence Based Information Practice, the Netting the Evidence Google Search Engine “…searches over one hundred web sites (107) associated with the METHODOLOGY of evidence based practice.”

This CSE will replace the current Netting the Evidence site, which Booth indicates will shortly be removed.

Try it out and share your thoughts in the comments.


Previous posts about Google CSEs

Sep 06

More Medical Custom Search Engines

I’ve previously mentioned my Google Custom Search Engines for Consumer Health (or Patient Education) Information and for the History of Medicine, but a couple of comments left by readers have pointed me towards more interesting CSEs:

Jere Odell points out the five interesting custom search engines at the Central Indiana Bioethics Portal, including search engines for End of life issues, Eugenics, Pandemic influenza, Stem cell research, and Transgenic agriculture.

Ed Bennett points out five CSE’s of interest to hospitalfolk that he’s created and placed at, incesluding CSEs for searching Maryland Hospitals, Washington D.C Hospitals, U.S. Medical Schools, Top National Hospitals, and Major US Hospitals.

Thanks so much to Jere and Ed for letting me know about these!

Aug 31

History of Medicine Search Engine

It occurred to me out of nowhere in particular that a search engine for free Web resources on the History of Medicine might be awfully useful to some, so I scraped about 500 URLs from the History of the Health Sciences Section of the Medical Library Association and slapped together this History of Medicine Custom Search Engine.

Try it and let me know what you think.

If you’re interested in helping to grow or refinine this CSE, please let me know. I’d love to hand it off to someone who knows a LOT more about the History of Medicine than I do.

What other CSEs would be useful to medical libraryfok?

Jul 11

Easy Custom Search Engines “On the Fly”

Something useful to libraries from Google Librarian Central!

If you have a page of links on your site for a particular subject, adding this little snippet of code will put a custom search engine on the page that searches all the content on the other ends of these links. When you add new links to the page, the custom search engine will search those sites, too.

Jun 26

Social Search for Health Librarians [Edited]

It seems as if everything I’ve tried to write in the last couple of weeks is an exercise in contrariness. I apologize in advance.

Eugene Barsky and Allan Cho have an article in the current issue of the Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, Introducing Web 2.0: social search for health librarians.

It’s great that Eugene and Allan gently introduce resources like YouTube and Flickr to Canadian health libraryfolk, but I find myself uncomfortable with their calling these resources “social search tools.”

I’ll attempt below to explain in simple terms what I understand a social search tool to be and offer some examples you can try.

So what’s “social search”?

Wikipedia has as good a definition as any:

A social search engine is a type of search engine that determines the relevance of search results by considering the interactions or contributions of users.

Get the idea? When Google returns your search results, these results are ordered by the PageRank algorithmCheck out this excellent recent article for a long, complex, and good explanation of PageRank, which notes (among other things) how many other Web pages link to each search result. The more Web pages link to a search result, the higher up the list of results it’ll appear. (Note to geeks: Yes, I know this is a dramatic oversimplification)

A social search engine puts this aside and asks itself: What have users liked when they searched for this topic? The more other users have indicted they liked the result, the higher up the list of results it’ll appear.

If YouTube and Flickr aren’t social search tools, what are they?

YouTube and Flickr are searchable collections of user-created content. In the case of Flickr, users upload and tag images that others can search. In the case of YouTube, users upload and tag video that others can search. Searching social content is not, in my thinking, the same thing as “social search.”

Is a social search engine?

You could call it that and not be wrong- but I don’t call it that. I haven’t been able to find any documentation on how sorts its search results, but Iit appears that the number of times a URL has been saved DOES figure into it…so it is accurate to say that searching is a kind of “social search,” but I wouldn’t call a “social search engine” because it is so much more than that. (I looooooooove

What about Google Custom Search Engines? Are they social search tools?

Some of ’em are, but most of ’em aren’t. Google Custom Search Engines are really pretty simple: Each uses Google’s engine, but its creator get to decide from which sites the CSE will return results. When I made the Consumer Health and Patient Education Information Search Engine I restricted it just to the sites that were recommended for consumer health information by the NLM or CAPHIS. Why don’t we call it a social search engine? Because there’s no social component. A single individual (me) plugged in which sites to include and set it out to be used. It sorts search results by Google’s PageRank, just like regular Google. Heck, even if I tweaked the way it sorts results, it still wouldn’t be social because I’d be the only one controlling it.

But a Google CSE could be social. When you create a CSE, you can invite others to add sites from which the CSE will return results or even place a form on its front page by which users can request access to add their input. In that sense, a Google CSE could be called social….

…but would I want to open up my CSE to be tweaked by anyone?

That depends on your goals and asks one of the most important questions about “social software.” Like a lot of social software, the value of social search is significantly impacted by who is participating. In the same way that AskDrWiki and Ganfyd have more value because they limit participation to licensed clinical professionals, some very specialized kinds of social search might similarly benefit from restricting participation to only expert contributors. If we take a look at the Google CSE that Alan and Eugene give as an example, we find out that (with good reason) it isn’t social at all and is maintained by one person:

There’s nothing wrong with a good CSE that is only created by one person- but it is mistaken to call it an example of social search.

So what are some good examples of social search engines?

Here are three: retrieves the top ten results for your search terms in Google, Yahoo and MSN, then lets the users rate how appropriately ranked they are.

Click thumbnail for larger screen capture


Sproose is sort of a cross between Google and Digg. You run your search, then vote for the results which you think are best.

Phil Bradley on Sproose

Eurekster Swickis

A Swicki is sort of like a Google CSE, but a lot more social in that it learns how better to sort search results based on the activity of users, even if the users aren’t specifically seeking to tweak it.

Is Social Search for Medical Libraries?

Sure. The library staff might make their own collaboratively-created Google CSE or Swicki of favorite, subject-specific sites (or have a CSE generated from a account’s links). Librarians should seek to be familiar with technologies for finding and organizing online information and social search is not likely going to go away as an idea any time soon.

My bottom line is that when it comes to health information for healthcare professionals, social models are only worthwhile if participation is restricted to those whose input is qualified. The Google Health Co-op, after all, is just a large-scale Google CSE where the invited 26 participating organizations are expert in healthcare information.

What am I missing?

Are there other ways social search tools can be used in medical libraries? Do you have any favorites? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Further reading:

Melissa L. Rethlefsen looks at social search engines, where search is heading, and what it means for librarians

Melissa is a Web-savvy medical librarian and I read everything she publishes. This article gives a very nice overview of a few social search tools.

Jan 15

More Web-based Radiology Tools

I recently posted about Goldminer and Yottalook. Since then, there has been a thread on a listserv I subscribe to (unrelated) in which list members suggested online radiology resources. Included in these suggestions were the following.

Both and were created by Michael P. D’Alessandro, M.D. calls itself a “digital library of radiology education resources,” but I’d describe it as a hyperlinked directory of recommended radiology resources on the web.
is a Google Custom Search Engine (same as the Consumer Health and Patient Education Information Search Engine I made). does NOT indicate what or how many sites the CSE searches, but describes itself as searching “radiology peer-reviewed information.”
As Dr. D’Alessandro rightly points out in a comment below, searches radiology peer-reviewed information from AJNR, AJR, Anatomy Atlases, BJR, eMedicine, EURORAD, Gray’s Anatomy, Medcyclopaedia, Radiographics, and Radiology.

From the About page: was conceived, designed, developed, produced and is maintained in its entirety by William Herring, MD. Dr. Herring is the Vice-Chairman and Radiology Residency Program Director at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, PA, where he has been the residency Program Director for over 20 years.

All material on the site was produced by Dr. Herring. Started in June of 2002, the site was originally intended to replace the handout notes that accompanied lectures for the residents and medical students at Albert Einstein. It now contains over 10,000 pages, and it has grown in popularity so that, this year alone, about 20 million pages will be accessed during over 700,000 visits.

RSNA hosts an index site running the MIRC storage and query software at The RSNA MIRC site allows users to access materials published on participating sites from around the world.

More information on RSNA MIRC here.

Other posts on about online radiology resources: