Sep 01

Web Geekery in Recent Literature, 9/1/2009

Welcome to another installment of Web Geekery in Recent Literature, where we point out recent articles in the indexed literature of potential interest to the Geeky and Web-obsessed.

Plagiarism of online material may be proven using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (
PMID: 19716663

Many writers and researchers are reluctant to publish online for fear that their work will be plagiarized and used without attribution elsewhere. For example, junior or freelance researchers may worry that their ideas will be ‘stolen’ and published under the name of professional or senior researchers; and that then it could be hard to convince people that in fact the idea had originated elsewhere. However, if this happens, plagiarism may be objectively proven by a service called the Internet Archive Wayback Machine ( permits clarification of the issue of dates – and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about authorship, whether charitable or otherwise. In sum, is a little known, freely available and potentially very useful mechanism for defending intellectual property rights.

I’d be willing to be that there’s not a single librarian reader of this blog who wasn’t already quite aware of the Wayback Machine.

Medical professionalism in the age of online social networking.
PMID: 19717700

The rapid emergence and exploding usage of online social networking forums, which are frequented by millions, present clinicians with new ethical and professional challenges. Particularly among a younger generation of physicians and patients, the use of online social networking forums has become widespread. In this article, we discuss ethical challenges facing the patient-doctor relationship as a result of the growing use of online social networking forums. We draw upon one heavily used and highly trafficked forum, Facebook, to illustrate the elements of these online environments and the ethical challenges peculiar to their novel form of exchange. Finally, we present guidelines for clinicians to negotiate responsibly and professionally their possible uses of these social forums.

Huh. This seems somehow familiar…

Informed patients are not a threat.
PMID: 19717986

We’ve all been there; the embarrassing realisation that, despite being a so-called health-care professional and the supposed fount of all knowledge, a patient or relative knows more about a condition than we do. Some of us can take it on the chin and defer, after all, the internet and modern media has made access to information that much easier – anyone with a PC and a spare half an hour can find out exactly how Dengue fever is transmitted (by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, in case you are interested). Not everyone can be that magnanimous though – as a student, I remember being intensely annoyed by a woman who told me that I was being impatient with her husband, a man with Alzheimer’s, and that I needed to adopt a calmer approach when I took him to the toilet. She was right, of course – but I was simply furious.

Say it with me, clinicians: “Informed patients are not a threat.” Make it your mantra.

(This comment dedicated to e-patient Dave.)

Aug 04

Facebook and the Green-Eyed Monster of Jealousy (WGiRL – 8/4/2009)


Cyberpsychol Behav. 2009 Aug;12(4):441-4.
More information than you ever wanted: does Facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy?
Muise A, Christofides E, Desmarais S.

Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

The social network site Facebook is a rapidly expanding phenomenon that is changing the nature of social relationships. Anecdotal evidence, including information described in the popular media, suggests that Facebook may be responsible for creating jealousy and suspicion in romantic relationships. The objectives of the present study were to explore the role of Facebook in the experience of jealousy and to determine if increased Facebook exposure predicts jealousy above and beyond personal and relationship factors. Three hundred eight undergraduate students completed an online survey that assessed demographic and personality factors and explored respondents’ Facebook use. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis, controlling for individual, personality, and relationship factors, revealed that increased Facebook use significantly predicts Facebook-related jealousy. We argue that this effect may be the result of a feedback loop whereby using Facebook exposes people to often ambiguous information about their partner that they may not otherwise have access to and that this new information incites further Facebook use. Our study provides evidence of Facebook’s unique contributions to the experience of jealousy in romantic relationships.

PMID: 19366318

Aug 03


Learned about MedlineRanker through this recent article:

The biomedical literature is represented by millions of abstracts available in the Medline database. These abstracts can be queried with the PubMed interface, which provides a keyword-based Boolean search engine. This approach shows limitations in the retrieval of abstracts related to very specific topics, as it is difficult for a non-expert user to find all of the most relevant keywords related to a biomedical topic. Additionally, when searching for more general topics, the same approach may return hundreds of unranked references. To address these issues, text mining tools have been developed to help scientists focus on relevant abstracts. We have implemented the MedlineRanker webserver, which allows a flexible ranking of Medline for a topic of interest without expert knowledge. Given some abstracts related to a topic, the program deduces automatically the most discriminative words in comparison to a random selection. These words are used to score other abstracts, including those from not yet annotated recent publications, which can be then ranked by relevance. We show that our tool can be highly accurate and that it is able to process millions of abstracts in a practical amount of time. MedlineRanker is free for use and is available at

Free Full Text: [HTML] [PDF]
Nucleic Acids Res. 2009 July 1; 37: W141–W146.
Published online 2009 July 1. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkp353.
PMCID: PMC2703945

Jun 20

An Evaluation of the Five Most Used Evidence Based Bedside Information Tools in Canadian Health Libraries

Farrell, Alison. “An Evaluation of the Five Most Used Evidence Based Bedside Information Tools in Canadian Health Libraries” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice [Online], 3 17 Jun 2008

Full text (PDF)


Objective – This project sought to identify the five most used evidence based bedside information tools used in Canadian health libraries, to examine librarians’ attitudes towards these tools, and to test the comprehensiveness of the tools.

Methods – The author developed a definition of evidence based bedside information tools and a list of resources that fit this definition. Participants were respondents to a survey distributed via the CANMEDLIB electronic mail list. The survey sought to identify information from library staff regarding the most frequently used evidence based bedside information tools. Clinical questions were used to measure the comprehensiveness of each resource and the levels of evidence they provided to each question.

Results – Survey respondents reported that the five most used evidence based bedside information tools in their libraries were UpToDate, BMJ Clinical Evidence, First Consult, Bandolier and ACP Pier. Librarians were generally satisfied with the ease of use, efficiency and informative nature of these resources. The resource assessment determined that not all of these tools are comprehensive in terms of their ability to answer clinical questions or with regard to the inclusion of levels of evidence. UpToDate was able to provide information for the greatest number of clinical questions, but it provided a level of evidence only seven percent of the time. ACP Pier was able to provide information on only 50% of the clinical questions, but it provided levels of evidence for all of these.

Conclusion – UpToDate and BMJ Clinical Evidence were both rated as easy to use and informative. However, neither product generally includes levels of evidence, so it would be prudent for the practitioner to critically appraise information from these sources before using it in a patient care setting. ACP Pier eliminates the critical appraisal stage, thus reducing the time it takes to go from forming a clinical question to implementing the answer, but survey respondents did not rate it as high in terms of usability. There remains a need for user-friendly, comprehensive resources that provide evidence summaries relying on levels of evidence to support their conclusions.

Full text (PDF)

Apr 03

Web Geekery in Recent Literature: 4/3/08

J Am Coll Radiol. 2008 Apr;5(4):593-7.
Quality of CT colonography-related web sites for consumers.
Sheran J, Dachman AH.

Department of Radiology, University of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.

PURPOSE: Patients often request to undergo computed tomographic colonography (CTC) from radiologists or referring physicians on the basis of their personal examination of information on the Web. Therefore, the authors examined the information on CTC and virtual colonoscopy available for consumers on the Web to assess its quality. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The term virtual colonoscopy was entered into 3 popular search engines: Google, Yahoo, and MSN. In each case, evaluation was limited to the first 50 Web sites, or hits, which were recorded and analyzed for content, comprehensiveness, and accuracy. RESULTS: Sixty-seven Web sites were deemed appropriate for further analysis. More than half of the sites reported currency dates more than 2 years old. Only a third of the sites included information about the risk factors for colorectal cancer. About a third of the sites did not explain the indications for the use of CTC, and the remaining sites lacked consistent descriptions of the indications. Few Web sites offered or described the option of performing same-day optical colonoscopy for patients with abnormal results on CTC. CONCLUSION: The data suggest that patients are often armed with very incomplete information from Web sites on CTC. Web sites were often found to be outdated, to contain conflicting information, and were lacking descriptions of patient risk factors for colorectal cancer. Several suggestions are made to improve the dissemination of comprehensive, current, and accurate information.

PMID: 18359448


Hum Reprod. 2008 Mar 27 [Epub ahead of print]
Infertility information on the World Wide Web: a cross-sectional survey of quality of infertility information on the internet in the UK.
Marriott JV, Stec P, El-Toukhy T, Khalaf Y, Braude P, Coomarasamy A.

Assisted Conception Unit, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Thomas Guy House, Guys Hospital, 4th Floor, London SE1 9RT, UK.

BACKGROUND The internet is a frequently used source of information for infertile couples. Previous studies suggested that the quality of health information on the internet is poor. The aim of this study was to assess the quality of websites providing information on infertility and its management in the UK. Differences between website types and affiliations were assessed. METHODS A Google search for the keyword ‘infertility’ was performed and 107 relevant websites were identified and categorized by type. Websites were assessed for credibility, accuracy and ease of navigation using predefined criteria. RESULTS The total scores for all types of websites were low, particularly in the accuracy category. Websites affiliated to the UK National Health Service (NHS) scored higher than those affiliated to private fertility clinics and other clinics providing non-conventional fertility treatment. Specifically, NHS websites were more likely to report success rates (92.9% versus 60% and 0%, P PMID: 18372253


Am J Pharm Educ. 2008 Feb 15;72(1):10.
Online social networking issues within academia and pharmacy education. [Free full text]
Cain J.

University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, USA.

Online social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are extremely popular as indicated by the numbers of members and visits to the sites. They allow students to connect with users with similar interests, build and maintain relationships with friends, and feel more connected with their campus. The foremost criticisms of online social networking are that students may open themselves to public scrutiny of their online personas and risk physical safety by revealing excessive personal information. This review outlines issues of online social networking in higher education by drawing upon articles in both the lay press and academic publications. New points for pharmacy educators to consider include the possible emergence of an “e-professionalism” concept; legal and ethical implications of using online postings in admission, discipline, and student safety decisions; how online personas may blend into professional life; and the responsibility for educating students about the risks of online social networking.

PMID: 18322572


Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2008 Feb 15;71(3):441-4.
SCAI launches An interventional cardiology resource for patients and physicians.
Weiner BH, Marshall JJ.

St Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, Worcester, MA 01608, USA.

PMID: 18288740

[Okay, not a lot in the abstract, but check out the site.]

Mar 24

Web Geekery in Recent Literature, 3/24/2008

Wikis in HIM education:

Perspect Health Inf Manag. 2008 Jan 30;5:1. (Free full text: HTML | PDF)
Using wiki in an online record documentation systems course.
Harris ST, Zeng X.

College of Allied Health Sciences at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, USA.

We report a case study using a wiki tool, Confluence, including a brief history, current status, and motivations for using Confluence. We describe how we created two spaces on Confluence for two consecutive classes, 2006 and 2007, in a health information management baccalaureate online course, Record Documentation Systems. The 2006 class contained 12 groups consisting of 52 students. The 2007 class contained six groups consisting of 30 students. We describe how two collaborative pages for each of the groups are created and used by the groups for the group project. Survey results illustrated that 44 percent of the students in 2006 and 50 percent in 2007 agree Confluence is a tool for facilitating learning; 58 percent in 2006 and 50 percent in 2007 agree it is a tool for student activities; 52 percent in 2006 and 36 percent in 2007 agree it is a medium for reflective group interaction; and 38 percent in 2006 and 36 percent in 2007 want to see its application in other courses.

PMID: 18311325


J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Nov;13(9):1035-43.
Evaluation of internet websites marketing herbal weight-loss supplements to consumers.
Jordan MA, Haywood T.

Midwestern University, College of Pharmacy-Glendale, Glendale, AZ 85308, USA.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the quality and quantity of drug information available to consumers on Internet websites marketing herbal weight-loss dietary supplements in the United States. METHODS: We conducted an Internet search using the search engines Yahoo and Google and the keywords “herbal weight loss.” Website content was evaluated for the presence of active/inactive ingredient names and strengths and other Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling requirements. Information related to drug safety for the most common herbal ingredients in the products evaluated was compared against standard herbal drug information references. RESULTS: Thirty-two (32) websites were evaluated for labeling requirements and safety information. All sites listed an FDA disclaimer statement and most sites (84.4%) listed active ingredients, although few listed strengths or inactive ingredients. Based on the drug information for the most common ingredients found in the weight-loss dietary supplements evaluated, potential contraindications for cardiovascular conditions, pregnancy/nursing, and high blood pressure were listed most frequently (73%, 65.5%, and 37%, respectively), whereas few websites listed potential drug interactions or adverse reactions. CONCLUSIONS: Potential hazards posed by dietary supplements may not be accurately, if at all, represented on Internet websites selling these products. Since consumers may not approach their physicians or pharmacists for information regarding use of dietary supplements in weight loss, it becomes necessary for health care providers to actively engage their patients in open discussion regarding the use, benefits, and hazards of dietary supplements.

PMID: 18047451

So…the potential hazards of dietary supplements are often not well explained by the Web sites selling them? I am shocked, I tell you. Shocked.


Imagine trying to conduct user needs assessments for the NIH/NLM Web sites

J Med Internet Res. 2008 Feb 15;10(1):e4. [Free full text]
Web evaluation at the US National Institutes of Health: use of the American Customer Satisfaction Index online customer survey.
Wood FB, Siegel ER, Feldman S, Love CB, Rodrigues D, Malamud M, Lagana M, Crafts J.

National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA.

BACKGROUND: The National Institutes of Health (NIH), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), realized the need to better understand its Web users in order to help assure that websites are user friendly and well designed for effective information dissemination. A trans-NIH group proposed a trans-NIH project to implement an online customer survey, known as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, on a large number of NIH websites-the first “enterprise-wide” ACSI application, and probably the largest enterprise Web evaluation of any kind, in the US government. The proposal was funded by the NIH Evaluation Set-Aside Program for two years at a cost of US $1.5 million (US $1.275 million for survey licenses for 60 websites at US $18000 per website; US $225,000 for a project evaluation contractor). OBJECTIVE: The overall project objectives were to assess the value added to the participating NIH websites of using the ACSI online survey, identify any NIH-wide benefits (and limitations) of the ACSI, ascertain any new understanding about the NIH Web presence based on ACSI survey results, and evaluate the effectiveness of a trans-NIH approach to Web evaluation. This was not an experimental study and was not intended to evaluate the ACSI survey methodology, per se, or the impacts of its use on customer satisfaction with NIH websites. METHODS: The evaluation methodology included baseline pre-project websites profiles; before and after email surveys of participating website teams; interviews with a representative cross-section of website staff; observations of debriefing meetings with website teams; observations at quarterly trans-NIH Web staff meetings and biweekly trans-NIH leadership team meetings; and review and analysis of secondary data. RESULTS: Of the original 60 NIH websites signed up, 55 implemented the ACSI survey, 42 generated sufficient data for formal reporting of survey results for their sites, and 51 completed the final project survey. A broad cross-section of websites participated, and a majority reported significant benefits and new knowledge gained from the ACSI survey results. NIH websites as a group scored consistently higher on overall customer satisfaction relative to US government-wide and private sector benchmarks. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, the enterprise-wide experiment was successful. On the level of individual websites, the project confirmed the value of online customer surveys as a Web evaluation method. The evaluation results indicated that successful use of the ACSI, whether site-by-site or enterprise-wide, depends in large part on strong staff and management support and adequate funding and time for the use of such evaluative methods. In the age of Web-based e-government, a broad commitment to Web evaluation may well be needed. This commitment would help assure that the potential of the Web and other information technologies to improve customer and citizen satisfaction is fully realized.

PMID: 18276580


Contemp Clin Trials. 2008 Feb 7
Using the Internet to search for cancer clinical trials: A comparative audit of clinical trial search tools.
Atkinson NL, Saperstein SL, Massett HA, Leonard CR, Grama L, Manrow R.

Department of Public and Community Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA.

Advancing the clinical trial research process to improve cancer treatment necessitates helping people with cancer identify and enroll in studies, and researchers are using the power of the Internet to facilitate this process. This study used a content analysis of online cancer clinical trial search tools to understand what people with cancer might encounter. The content analysis revealed that clinical trial search tools were easy to identify using a popular search engine, but their functionality and content varied greatly. Most required that users be fairly knowledgeable about their medical condition and sophisticated in their web navigation skills. The ability to search by a specific health condition or type of cancer was the most common search strategy. The more complex tools required that users input detailed information about their personal medical history and have knowledge of specific clinical trial terminology. Search tools, however, only occasionally advised users to consult their doctors regarding clinical trial decision-making. This, along with the complexity of the tools suggests that online search tools may not adequately facilitate the clinical trial recruitment process. Findings from this analysis can be used as a framework from which to systematically examine actual consumer experience with online clinical trial search tools.

PMID: 18346942


Health Promot Pract. 2008 Jan;9(1):59-67. Epub 2007 Aug 28.
An evaluation of community health center adoption of online health information.
Martinez MA, Kind T, Pezo E, Pomerantz KL.

Minnesota Department of Human Services, St. Paul, Minnesota 55164-0986, USA.

Health care providers and patients in community health centers often lack access to online scientific and patient education resources. These resources can improve medical decision making and promote communication between provider and patient. In 2000, a community health information program, Partners for Health Information, provided 10 community health centers in Washington, D.C. with computers, training, and consumer health resources, supplemented with visits to coach patients and staff in their use. The purpose of this study is to assess the adoption of the use of online health information among staff in seven of these health centers. The methods of this evaluation were designed to measure frequency of patient referral by health center staff to online health information and to describe providers’ perceptions of the barriers and enablers to using online resources. Recommendations made by respondents can be used to modify the Partners program and guide the development of other similar programs.

PMID: 17728203


Healthc Q. 2008;11(1):104-8, 110, 4.
Web 2.0 and chronic illness: new horizons, new opportunities. [Free full text]
Seeman N.

IBM’s Global Buisness Services, Toronto.

“Web 2.0” heralds a breakthrough opportunity for empowering healthcare consumers of all types, and especially for those suffering from different forms of chronic illness. As the author shows using some data gathered from a popular social networking website––this opportunity may be greatest for heavily stigmatized chronic health issues, such as obesity and mental illness.

PMID: 18326388

Feb 27

Web Geekery in Recent Literature – 2/27/2007

Med Teach. 2008;30(1):10-16.
‘Net Generation’ medical students: technological experiences of pre-clinical and clinical students.
Kennedy G, Gray K, Tse J.
University of Melbourne, Australia.
Background: While institutions have been keen to integrate information and communication technologies into medical education, little is known about the technological experiences of the current cohort of so-called ‘Net Generation’ students. Aims: This study investigated the technological experiences of medical students and determined whether there were differences between pre-clinical and clinical students. Method: In 2006, 207 pre-clinical and 161 clinical students studying medicine at a major Australian university were surveyed. The questionnaire asked students about their access to, use of and skills with an array of technologies and technology-based tools. Results: The results show that access to mobile phones, memory sticks, desktop computers, and broadband Internet connections was high while technologies such as PDAs were used in very low numbers. A factor analysis of students’ use of 39 technology-based tools revealed nine clear activity types, including the ‘standard’ use of computers and mobile-phones, and the use of the Internet as a pastime activity, for podcasting and for accessing services. A comparison of pre-clinical and clinical students revealed a number of significant differences in terms of the frequency and skill with which these students use distinct technology-based tools. Conclusions: The findings inform current technology-based teaching and learning activities and shed light on potential areas of educational technology development.
PMID: 18278643

David wonders: Does “Net Generation” = “Digital Natives” = “GenX/GenY”?


Support Care Cancer. 2008 Feb 22
Internet use by cancer survivors: current use and future wishes.
van de Poll-Franse LV, van Eenbergen MC.
Comprehensive Cancer Centre South (IKZ), Eindhoven Cancer Registry, P.O. box 231, 5600 AE, Eindhoven, The Netherlands,

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to evaluate the extent of internet access and use and patient characteristics associated with internet use. We also aimed to study when and at which sites cancer patients search for information, the self-reported effect on health care use, and patients’ wishes with respect to future internet possibilities. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We drew a sample of 390 patients diagnosed with breast (n = 128), prostate (n = 96), or gynecological (n = 89) cancer or lymphoma (n = 77) in four different hospitals in the period 2002-2004, who were 65 years or younger at diagnosis. These patients were sent a questionnaire that contained 45 questions about demographics and three broad applications of internet use: content, communication, community. RESULTS: Of the 261 (75%) patients who responded, 60% used Internet by themselves, 9% via others, whereas 31% did not use the Internet. High education, young age, and high socio-economic status were all independently positively associated with internet use. Of the patients with complaints but pre-diagnosis, 41% searched the Internet for information about cancer daily to several times a week. After diagnosis, during treatment, and at follow-up, this was, respectively, 71%, 56%, and 4%. Although patients preferred to get reliable information from the Web site of their oncologist (88%), hospital (70%) or Dutch Cancer Society (76%), Web sites that are completely financed and created by pharmaceutical industries were mentioned most as source of information. Patients who used the Internet to find information about cancer felt themselves to be better informed about their disease (72%); only 3% thought that consulting the Internet increased the frequency of visiting their doctor, whereas 20% felt that information from the Internet influenced the treatment decision made by their doctor. Most patients who use the Internet would like to be able to access their own medical file (79%) or test results (81%) if possible. CONCLUSION: Many cancer patients use the Internet to find reliable information about their disease and treatment. Patient information centers from hospitals should be strongly encouraged to improve disease and treatment information facilities on their hospital Web site, especially since most patients view their oncologist still as the most important source of information.

PMID: 18293014

David notes: I suppose that it is good to have a supporting study, but I wasn’t aware that there was any doubt about the fact that a lot of patients in comparatively wired (affluent) nations dealing with any illness “use the Internet to find reliable information about their disease and treatment.”
Take-home lesson for hospital libraries: “Patient information centers from hospitals should be strongly encouraged to improve disease and treatment information facilities on their hospital Web site”


BMC Public Health. 2008 Feb 21;8(1):69
Health information seeking on the Internet: a double divide? Results from a representative survey in the Paris metropolitan area, France, 2005-2006.
Renahy E, Parizot I, Chauvin P.
[Free full text PDF]

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The Internet is a major source of information for professionals and the general public, especially in the field of health. However, despite ever-increasing connection rates, a digital divide persists in the industrialised countries. The objective of this study was to assess the determinants involved in: 1) having or not having Internet access; and 2) using or not using the Internet to obtain health information. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of a representative random sample was conducted in the Paris metropolitan area, France, in the fall of 2005 (n = 3023). RESULTS: Close to 70% of the adult population had Internet access, and 49% of Internet users had previously searched for medical information. Economic and social disparities observed in online health information seeking are reinforced by the economic and social disparities in Internet access, hence a double divide. While individuals who reported having a recent health problem were less likely to have Internet access (odds ratio (OR): 0.72, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.53-0.98), it is they who, when they have Internet access, are the most likely to search for health information (OR = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.11-1.87). CONCLUSIONS: In the French context of universal health insurance, access to the Internet varies according to social and socioeconomic status and health status, and its use for health information seeking varies also with health beliefs, but not to health insurance coverage or health-care utilisation. Certain economic and social inequalities seem to impact cumulatively on Internet access and on the use of the Internet for health information seeking. It is not obvious that the Internet is a special information tool for primary prevention in people who are the furthest removed from health concerns. However, the Internet appears to be a useful complement for secondary prevention, especially for better understanding health problems or enhancing therapeutic compliance.

PMID: 18291024

David notes: Inside or outside of the context of universal healthcare, it isn’t at all surprising to read that “access to the Internet varies according to social and socioeconomic status and health status, and its use for health information seeking varies also with health beliefs, but not to health insurance coverage or health-care utilisation.” Are there really people who don’t understand that access to quality information depends greatly on social and economic factors even in the most wired and affluent nations?
Take home lesson for hospital libraries: Again, make your hospital library Web site a gateway to the best available free information.


J Med Internet Res. 2008 Jan 22;10(1):e2.
Impact of web searching and social feedback on consumer decision making: a prospective online experiment. [Free full text]
Lau AY, Coiera EW.
Centre for Health Informatics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
BACKGROUND: The World Wide Web has increasingly become an important source of information in health care consumer decision making. However, little is known about whether searching online resources actually improves consumers' understanding of health issues. OBJECTIVES: The aim was to study whether searching on the World Wide Web improves consumers' accuracy in answering health questions and whether consumers' understanding of health issues is subject to further change under social feedback. METHODS: This was a pre/post prospective online study. A convenience sample of 227 undergraduate students was recruited from the population of the University of New South Wales. Subjects used a search engine that retrieved online documents from PubMed, MedlinePlus, and HealthInsite and answered a set of six questions (before and after use of the search engine) designed for health care consumers. They were then presented with feedback consisting of a summary of the post-search answers provided by previous subjects for the same questions and were asked to answer the questions again. RESULTS: There was an improvement in the percentage of correct answers after searching (pre-search 61.2% vs post-search 82.0%, P &#60 .001) and after feedback with other subjects' answers (pre-feedback 82.0% vs post-feedback 85.3%, P =.051).The proportion of subjects with highly confident correct answers (ie, confident or very confident) and the proportion with highly confident incorrect answers significantly increased after searching (correct pre-search 61.6% vs correct post-search 95.5%, P &#60.001; incorrect pre-search 55.3% vs incorrect post-search 82.0%, P &#60.001). Subjects who were not as confident in their post-search answers were 28.5% more likely than those who were confident or very confident to change their answer after feedback with other subjects' post-search answers (chi(2) (1)= 66.65, P &#60.001). CONCLUSIONS: Searching across quality health information sources on the Web can improve consumers' accuracy in answering health questions. However, a consumer's confidence in an answer is not a good indicator of the answer being correct. Consumers who are not confident in their answers after searching are more likely to be influenced to change their views when provided with feedback from other consumers.
PMID: 18244893

David wonders: The fact that study participants were undergrad students is pretty significant, isn’t it?

Feb 26

MScanner: a classifier for retrieving Medline citations

MScanner: a classifier for retrieving Medline citations
Graham L Poulter, Daniel L Rubin, Russ B Altman and Cathal Seoighe
BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9:108doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-108
Published: 19 February 2008

Free full text: [PDF]

Article is about a third-party PubMed/MEDLINE tool that I have not been able to make work, MScanner.

[Other posts about third-party PubMed/MEDLINE tools]

Feb 17

Web Geekery in Recent Literature – 2/17/2008

More about online consumer cancer information

Cancer Invest. 2008 Mar;26(2):202-7.
Internet health resources and the cancer patient.
Huang GJ, Penson DF.
Department of Urology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.
The last decade has witnessed an explosion of online information regarding cancer and healthcare. Accompanying this has been a large body of research analyzing the quality of this information, how patients perceive these data and how this affects the doctor-patient relationship. This report reviews this literature, summarizing the current state of internet health resources available to the cancer patient and identifying areas for future research. Studies indicate that there are considerable internet resources available to cancer patients and that patients are using these resources as secondary information sources. Specifically, studies indicate that 16-64% of patients are using the internet to obtain health information. For the most part, patients perceive the online information to be reliable but maintain a healthy degree of skepticism. Studies objectively evaluating cancer information on the internet indicate that there is reasonable quality, although the language level of many sites is higher than that of the average American, which may limit the utility of the websites. Finally, while there is widespread internet use by physicians, healthcare providers are skeptical of their patients’ ability to use the internet and may even be somewhat threatened by it. In summary, while there is a fairly large literature on internet resources available to the cancer patient, more research is needed. Specifically, it is important to better understand how patients access health information online and their associated preferences so that we can improve cancer patient’s access to high quality health information on the internet to facilitate decision-making and health outcomes.
PMID: 18259953

Webcasting for dentistry education!

Br Dent J. 2008 Feb 9;204(3):145-9.
Webcasting: casting the web more widely.
Reynolds PA, Mason R, Eaton KA.
Centre of Flexible Learning in Dentistry, King’s College London Dental Institute, Floor 3, Strand Bridge House, 138-142 Strand, London, UK.
In the search for a cost-effective method of delivering teaching to dispersed groups of students, webcasting is proving successful. By taking video streams and transmitting them over the Internet it allows events such as lectures, seminars, webinars and tuition sessions to be made accessible to participants in many different, remote locations. Moreover, the webcasts can be stored on a normal PC to give, those unable to see the original broadcast, the opportunity to watch it at a later, more convenient time; similarly it can be used by students for revision purposes. New developments have allowed a useful level of interactivity between presenters and students, and between students themselves. As part of a recent project at a UK dental school, webcasting was trialed amongst undergraduates and postgraduates to measure its value for dental education. The results have been very encouraging, with the latter group especially benefiting from being able to see the webcasts in their own time, on their PCs at home or work. However, as befits an ever-changing scenario, a new web-oriented facility is beginning to play a role in education: podcasting provides a more personal, individual interaction with the web.
PMID: 18264069

Feb 15

Web Geekery in Recent Literature – 2/15/2008

On the internet and patient education:

Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2008 Jan;12(1):55-63.
The internet: friend or foe when providing patient education?
Anderson AS, Klemm P.
James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY.
The Internet has changed how patients with cancer learn about and cope with their disease. Newly diagnosed patients with cancer often have complex educational and informational needs related to diagnosis and treatment. Nurses frequently encounter time and work-related constraints that can interfere with the provision of patient education. They are challenged to educate patients in an environment of rapidly expanding and innovative computer technology. Barriers that hinder nurses in integrating educational Internet resources into patient care include lack of training, time constraints, and inadequate administrative support. Advantages of Internet use for patient education and support include wide-ranging and current information, a variety of teaching formats, patient empowerment, new communication options, and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pitfalls associated with Internet use for patients with cancer include inaccurate information, lack of access, poor quality of online resources, and security and privacy issues. Nurses routinely use computer technology in the workplace and follow rigorous security and privacy standards to protect patient information. Those skills can provide the foundation for the use of online sources for patient teaching. Nurses play an important role in helping patients evaluate the veracity of online information and introducing them to reliable Internet resources.
PMID: 18258575

Anglophonic Canadians seeking healthcare info online:

Health Informatics J. 2008 Mar;14(1):17-28.
Use of health-related information from the Internet by English-speaking patients.
Khechine H, Pascot D, Prémont P.
Departement of Information Systems, Faculté des sciences de l’administration, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada G1K 7P4.
The aim of this research is to determine the kinds of health-related information that patients seek more often from websites written in English, and at which stages of the healthcare decisional process they use this information more intensively. A quantitative study was performed. Canadian English-speaking patients who have long-term diseases and who use the Internet completed an 18-item questionnaire online. Respondents were questioned about the categories of health-related websites they visit the most (scientific, general, commercial websites, or discussion groups) and the stages of the medical decisional process during which they use the information obtained (identification of possible treatments, treatment choice, and treatment application or follow-up). Results show that respondents use Internet information displayed in English mostly at the stages of identification of possible treatments (94.2%) and treatment application or follow-up (86%). At these two stages, patients look more often for information from scientific websites.
PMID: 18258672

You’ve probably already heard about this one- but just in case you haven’t…

Cancer. 2008 Feb 11
Commonly cited website quality criteria are not effective at identifying inaccurate online information about breast cancer.
Bernstam EV, Walji MF, Sagaram S, Sagaram D, Johnson CW, Meric-Bernstam F.
School of Health Information Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas.
BACKGROUND: Consumers increasingly consult the Internet for breast cancer information. Concerned about accuracy, multiple organizations developed quality criteria for online content. However, the effectiveness of these tools is unknown. The authors determined whether existing quality criteria can identify inaccurate breast cancer information online. METHODS: The authors identified 343 unique webpages by using 15 breast cancer-related queries on 5 popular web search-engines. Each page was assessed for 15 quality criteria and 3 website characteristics, link type (sponsored or not), search engine used to find the page, and domain extension. Two clinician-reviewers independently assessed accuracy and topics covered. The authors then determined whether quality criteria, website characteristics, and topics were associated with the presence of inaccurate statements. RESULTS: The authors found 41 inaccurate statements on 18 webpages (5.2%). No quality criteria or website characteristic, singly or in combination, reliably identified inaccurate information. The total number of quality criteria met by a website accounted for a small fraction of the variability in the presence of inaccuracies (point biserial r = -0.128; df = 341; P = .018; r(2) = 0.016). However, webpages containing information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) were significantly more likely to contain inaccuracies compared with pages without CAM information (odds ratio [OR], 15.6; P < .001). CONCLUSIONS: Most breast cancer information that consumers are likely to encounter online is accurate. However, commonly cited quality criteria do not identify inaccurate information. Webpages that contain information about CAM are relatively likely to contain inaccurate statements. Consumers searching for health information online should still consult a clinician before taking action. Cancer 2008. (c) 2008 American Cancer Society. PMID: 18266210

Feb 06

Web Geekery in Recent Literature – 2/6/2008 (1337speak in Pu8M3d!)

Geekiest Article Title in PubMed to Date!

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2008 Feb;34(1):237-41.
R34d1ng w0rd5 w1th numb3r5.
Perea M, Duñabeitia JA, Carreiras M.
Departamento de Metodologia, Facultad de Psicologia.
Letter identities and number identities are usually thought to imply different cortical mechanisms. Specifically, the left fusiform gyrus responds more to letters than to digits (T. A. Polk et al., 2002). However, a widely circulated statement on the internet illustrates that it is possible to use numbers (leet digits) as parts of words, 4ND TH3 R35ULT1NG S3NT3NC3 C4N B3 R34D W1TH0UT GR34T 3FF0RT. Two masked priming lexical decision experiments were conducted to determine whether leet digits produce (automatic) lexical activation. Results showed that words are identified substantially faster when they are preceded by a masked leet word (M4T3R14L-MATERIAL) than when they are preceded by a control condition with other letters or digits. In addition, there was only a negligible advantage of the identity condition over the related leet condition. This leet-priming effect is not specific to numbers: A prime in which leet digits are replaced by letter-like symbols (MDeltaTeuroR!DeltaL-MATERIAL) facilitates word processing to the same degree as an identity prime. Therefore, the cognitive system regularizes the shape of the leet digits and letter-like symbols embedded in words with very little cost. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved).
PMID: 18248151

Actually interested in this subculture? Check out Wikipedia’s entry on Leetspeak.


Suggested alternate title: “Comparison tools are okay if they’re what’s called-for. Meh.”

J Med Internet Res. 2008 Jan 22;10(1):e3.
What do evaluation instruments tell us about the quality of complementary medicine information on the internet?
Breckons M, Jones R, Morris J, Richardson J.
School of Nursing and Community Studies, University of Plymouth, Faculty of Health and Social Work, Plymouth, United Kingdom.
BACKGROUND: Developers of health information websites aimed at consumers need methods to assess whether their website is of “high quality.” Due to the nature of complementary medicine, website information is diverse and may be of poor quality. Various methods have been used to assess the quality of websites, the two main approaches being (1) to compare the content against some gold standard, and (2) to rate various aspects of the site using an assessment tool. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to review available evaluation instruments to assess their performance when used by a researcher to evaluate websites containing information on complementary medicine and breast cancer. In particular, we wanted to see if instruments used the same criteria, agreed on the ranking of websites, were easy to use by a researcher, and if use of a single tool was sufficient to assess website quality. METHODS: Bibliographic databases, search engines, and citation searches were used to identify evaluation instruments. Instruments were included that enabled users with no subject knowledge to make an objective assessment of a website containing health information. The elements of each instrument were compared to nine main criteria defined by a previous study. Google was used to search for complementary medicine and breast cancer sites. The first six results and a purposive six from different origins (charities, sponsored, commercial) were chosen. Each website was assessed using each tool, and the percentage of criteria successfully met was recorded. The ranking of the websites by each tool was compared. The use of the instruments by others was estimated by citation analysis and Google searching. RESULTS: A total of 39 instruments were identified, 12 of which met the inclusion criteria; the instruments contained between 4 and 43 questions. When applied to 12 websites, there was agreement of the rank order of the sites with 10 of the instruments. Instruments varied in the range of criteria they assessed and in their ease of use. CONCLUSIONS: Comparing the content of websites against a gold standard is time consuming and only feasible for very specific advice. Evaluation instruments offer gateway providers a method to assess websites. The checklist approach has face validity when results are compared to the actual content of “good” and “bad” websites. Although instruments differed in the range of items assessed, there was fair agreement between most available instruments. Some were easier to use than others, but these were not necessarily the instruments most widely used to date. Combining some of the better features of instruments to provide fewer, easy-to-use methods would be beneficial to gateway providers.
Publication Types:
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t
PMID: 18244894


Article about Isabel (video demo available here).

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jan;23 Suppl 1:37-40.
Comment in:
J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jan;23 Suppl 1:85-7.
Performance of a web-based clinical diagnosis support system for internists.
Graber ML, Mathew A.
Medical Service-111, VA Medical Center, Northport, NY 11768, USA.
BACKGROUND: Clinical decision support systems can improve medical diagnosis and reduce diagnostic errors. Older systems, however, were cumbersome to use and had limited success in identifying the correct diagnosis in complicated cases. OBJECTIVE: To measure the sensitivity and speed of “Isabel” (Isabel Healthcare Inc., USA), a new web-based clinical decision support system designed to suggest the correct diagnosis in complex medical cases involving adults. METHODS: We tested 50 consecutive Internal Medicine case records published in the New England Journal of Medicine. We first either manually entered 3 to 6 key clinical findings from the case (recommended approach) or pasted in the entire case history. The investigator entering key words was aware of the correct diagnosis. We then determined how often the correct diagnosis was suggested in the list of 30 differential diagnoses generated by the clinical decision support system. We also evaluated the speed of data entry and results recovery. RESULTS: The clinical decision support system suggested the correct diagnosis in 48 of 50 cases (96%) with key findings entry, and in 37 of the 50 cases (74%) if the entire case history was pasted in. Pasting took seconds, manual entry less than a minute, and results were provided within 2-3 seconds with either approach. CONCLUSIONS: The Isabel clinical decision support system quickly suggested the correct diagnosis in almost all of these complex cases, particularly with key finding entry. The system performed well in this experimental setting and merits evaluation in more natural settings and clinical practice.
Publication Types:
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t
PMID: 18095042

Free full text: [PDF] [HTML]

Jan 31

Web Geekery (and Sex) In Recent Literature – 1/31/2008

I didn’t seek to have a theme for this installment of WGiRL, it just happened.

  • Geez, what an odd choice of metaphor for the title. I mean, if one kept one’s arrow in one’s quiver in the first place…
    Sex Transm Dis. 2008 Feb;35(2):117-8.
    Internet partner notification: another arrow in the quiver.
    Hogben M, Kachur R.
    Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
    PMID: 18216724
  • I read this abstract and kept having a mental image of an author clicking away at his mouse while his wife calls from another room:

    Wife: Whatcha’ doing on the computer, honey?
    Author: Ummmm….research for my article!

    Qual Health Res. 2008 Feb;18(2):268-79.
    Online dating and mating: the use of the internet to meet sexual partners.
    Couch D, Liamputtong P.
    La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
    PMID: 18216345

  • J Clin Nurs. 2008 Feb;17(3):423.
    Internet resource guide for nurses and health care professionals.
    Gilmour J.
    School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.
    PMID: 18205695
Jan 25

My Resource Review of BioWizard (JMLA)

Big day for me. My Electronic Resources Review of BioWizard was published in the JMLA.

David L. Rothman
J Med Libr Assoc. 2008 January; 96(1): 74. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.96.1.74.
| Full Text | PDF–988K

Of course, I just realized that BioWizard has significantly changed its interface since I wrote the review. Dangit.

Jan 23

Web Geekery In Recent Literature – 1/23/2007

Items that have recently caught my attention:

Of particular note for nephrologists and those who support them.

  • Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2008 Jan;15(1):73-82.
    The internet as a tool for the renal community.
    Buettner K, Fadem SZ .

    American Association of Kidney Patients, Tampa, FL, USA.

    The Internet has impacted health care. With the introduction of the personal health record (PHR), patients have an opportunity to track their physician visits, medications, and laboratory values online in a pleasant and informative learning environment. The PHR is a secure, online, Internet-accessible method of storing and easily retrieving health information about one’s medical history, physician visits, laboratory values, and medications. The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) has taken the leadership role in developing a PHR for patients of the kidney community. There are several barriers that patients experience when using the Web for health resources. These include inaccurate or self-serving information and marketing statements that can be misleading and dangerous. Poorly written or inappropriate information for patients can be problematic, as can an abundance of extraneous information. For the most part, the public often has no way to judge what is and is not credible based on the context of the article alone. This article gives the reader a review of several Web resources that are available for patients and also for renal professionals. They are largely from large nonprofit organizations like the AAKP, National Kidney Foundation, Medical Education Institute, American Society of Nephrology, or The Nephron Information Center ( This article also reviews sites from The National Kidney Disease Education Program, Hypertension-Dialysis and Clinical Nephrology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and DaVita.

    PMID: 18155112

  • Hip the OBs whose information needs you serve to this item:

  • J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2008 Jan;30(1):38-43.
    Access to web-based personalized antenatal health records for pregnant women: a randomized controlled trial.
    Shaw E, Howard M, Chan D, Waters H, Kaczorowski J, Price D, Zazulak J.

    Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton ON.

    Objective: During pregnancy, the information needs of patients are high and effective information sharing between patients and health care providers is of particular importance. We conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effect of providing pregnant women with secure access to their antenatal health records on their uptake of, and satisfaction with, relevant information. Methods: Women presenting to a primary care maternity centre before 28 weeks’ gestation were randomized to receive access either to a secure website with links to general pregnancy health information alone (GI group) or to the same website with access to their own antenatal health record (PI group). Primary outcomes included frequency of use, and satisfaction with and perceived usefulness of the web-based information. Results: We approached 199 women regarding participation in the study; 193 agreed to participate, and 97 were randomized to the PI group and 96 to the GI group. The mean number of log-ins to the website in the PI group subsequently was almost six times the number of log-ins in the GI group (10.4 +/- 17.8 vs. 1.8 +/- 1.4; P < 0.001), and 84.2% of log-ins in the PI group accessed the antenatal health record. The responses of participants to questions about the website's ease of use and value in providing information about pregnancy indicated a high level of satisfaction, with no significant difference in responses between groups. Conclusion: Pregnant patients are prepared to use a health information website and web-based health records. When personal information is provided there is greater use than when general pregnancy information alone is provided. Given the almost universal availability of the Internet, this option has the potential for wider application to patient-related outcomes. PMID: 18198066

  • Impact of Web Searching and Social Feedback on Consumer Decision Making: A Prospective Online Experiment

    Annie YS Lau, PhD; Enrico W Coiera, MB, BS, PhD

    Centre for Health Informatics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
    Corresponding Author:
    Enrico W Coiera, MB, BS, PhD

    Centre for Health Informatics
    University of New South Wales
    Sydney, NSW 2052

    Background: The World Wide Web has increasingly become an important source of information in health care consumer decision making. However, little is known about whether searching online resources actually improves consumers’ understanding of health issues.
    Objectives: The aim was to study whether searching on the World Wide Web improves consumers’ accuracy in answering health questions and whether consumers’ understanding of health issues is subject to further change under social feedback.
    Methods: This was a pre/post prospective online study. A convenience sample of 227 undergraduate students was recruited from the population of the University of New South Wales. Subjects used a search engine that retrieved online documents from PubMed, MedlinePlus, and HealthInsite and answered a set of six questions (before and after use of the search engine) designed for health care consumers. They were then presented with feedback consisting of a summary of the post-search answers provided by previous subjects for the same questions and were asked to answer the questions again.
    Results: There was an improvement in the percentage of correct answers after searching (pre-search 61.2% vs post-search 82.0%, P < .001) and after feedback with other subjects’ answers (pre-feedback 82.0% vs post-feedback 85.3%, P =.051).The proportion of subjects with highly confident correct answers (ie, confident or very confident) and the proportion with highly confident incorrect answers significantly increased after searching (correct pre-search 61.6% vs correct post-search 95.5%, P <.001; incorrect pre-search 55.3% vs incorrect post-search 82.0%, P <.001). Subjects who were not as confident in their post-search answers were 28.5% more likely than those who were confident or very confident to change their answer after feedback with other subjects’ post-search answers (χ21= 66.65, P <.001). Conclusions: Searching across quality health information sources on the Web can improve consumers’ accuracy in answering health questions. However, a consumer’s confidence in an answer is not a good indicator of the answer being correct. Consumers who are not confident in their answers after searching are more likely to be influenced to change their views when provided with feedback from other consumers. (J Med Internet Res 2008;10(1):e2) doi:10.2196/jmir.963

  • Let’s just repeat that last bit again, breaking into its three component parts:

    (1)Searching across quality health information sources on the Web can improve consumers’ accuracy in answering health questions. (2)However, a consumer’s confidence in an answer is not a good indicator of the answer being correct. (3)Consumers who are not confident in their answers after searching are more likely to be influenced to change their views when provided with feedback from other consumers.

    How’s that for a mixed message?

Jan 04

Web Geekery in Recent Literature – 1/4/2008

(What do y’all think of this as a regular feature on this blog?)

  • I’ll Google That.
    AORN J. 2007 Dec;86(6):933-5
    Authors: Hamlin L
    PMID: 18068397

    I haven’t read the whole article yetMy library has full text access to this title digitally, but I can’t seem to access this issue yet…dangit, but the European Medical Libraries blog has some excerpts:

    “There is no doubt that information and communication are the very essence and heart of Google; however, unlike the majority of traditional, scholarly sources, information obtained via a search engine such as Google is not necessarily accurate, authoritative, or even true.”

    Here’s the thing: Google isn’t a source, Google is a tool for (among other things) finding sources. Criticizing Google as a source of information is about as ridiculous as criticizing the card catalog for not being a good source. Of course it isn’t! But the books the card catalog helps you find are! Both the card catalog and Google require specialized informatoin literacy to use effectively. Google and other general Web search engines are incredibly useful tools in the hands of an expert searcher and I continue to be amazed that there are people who doubt this.

    I really need to read the article to see if the entire thing is this ridiculous or if these excerpts, out of context, don’t represent it well.

  • I love the idea of physicians seeking to learn something from patient blogs…

    What can physicians learn from the blogs of patients with uveitis?
    Ocul Immunol Inflamm. 2007 Nov-Dec;15(6):421-3
    Authors: Mehta SA
    PMID: 18085484

    Aim: To identify the sources of anxiety from patient blogs. Materials and Methods: Blogs were identified using and the following noted: age, sex, location, type of uveitis, symptoms, and the sources of anxiety. Results: 103 blogs were identified. Anterior uveitis was the most common type followed by multifocal choroiditis and sympathetic ophthalmia. Sources of anxiety include acute pain, redness, photophobia and visual loss, initial misdiagnosis and monetary expenses. Conclusions: Physicians should focus on pain relief and counsel on visual loss including its impact on career or livelihood needs. Patients seen in emergency situations need early referral.
  • Cool…an article on HealthMap, a really cool mashup previously mentioned here).

    HealthMap: Global infectious disease monitoring through automated classification and visualization of Internet media reports.
    J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2007 Dec 20;
    Authors: Freifeld CC, Mandl KD, Reis BY, Brownstein JS
    PMID: 18096908

    OBJECTIVE Unstructured electronic information sources, such as news reports, are proving to be valuable inputs for public health surveillance. However, staying abreast of current disease outbreaks requires scouring a continually growing number of disparate news sources and alert services, resulting in information overload. Our objective is to address this challenge through the Web application, an automated system for querying, filtering, integrating and visualizing unstructured reports on disease outbreaks. DESIGN This report describes the design principles, software architecture and implementation of HealthMap and discusses key challenges and future plans. MEASUREMENTS We describe the process by which HealthMap collects and integrates outbreak data from a variety of sources, including news media (e.g., Google News), expert-curated accounts (e.g., ProMED Mail), and validated official alerts. Through the use of text processing algorithms, the system classifies alerts by location and disease and then overlays them on an interactive geographic map. We measure the accuracy of the classification algorithms based on the level of human curation necessary to correct misclassifications, and examine geographic coverage. RESULTS As part of the evaluation of the system, we analyzed 778 reports with HealthMap, representing 87 disease categories and 89 countries. The automated classifier performed with 84% accuracy, demonstrating significant usefulness in managing the large volume of information processed by the system. Accuracy for ProMED alerts is 91% compared to Google News reports at 81%, as ProMED messages follow a more regular structure. CONCLUSION HealthMap is a useful free and open resource employing text-processing algorithms to identify important disease outbreak information through a user-friendly interface.

Dec 09

Web Geekery in the Recent Literature – 12/9/2007

  • This article points us to, a consumer-oriented site for information about radiology.

    J Am Coll Radiol. 2007 Nov;4(11):809-15.
    RadiologyInfo: reaching out to touch patients.
    Ellenbogen PH, Tashjian JH.

    RadiologyInfo is a public information Web site created and maintained as an unprecedented joint collaborative effort of the Radiological Society of North America and the American College of Radiology. Conceived in 1997 and operating since 2000, the site has grown to become a leading medical information site, currently with more than 100 radiologic examinations and treatments described. Each month, well over half a million visitors connect to RadiologyInfo (660,000 visits in March 2007). The information is now also available in Spanish and French. New procedures, current topics, and additional images are added on an ongoing basis.

  • Haven’t gotten my hands on a copy of this one yet. Emphases in abstract below are mine:

    Postgrad Med J. 2007 Dec;83(986):759-62.
    Web 2.0 technologies for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education: an online survey.
    Sandars J, Schroter S.

    OBJECTIVES: To identify the current familiarity and use of Web 2.0 technologies by medical students and qualified medical practitioners, and to identify the barriers to its use for medical education. METHODS: A semi-structured online questionnaire survey of 3000 medical students and 3000 qualified medical practitioners (consultants, general practitioners and doctors in training) on the British Medical Association’s membership database. RESULTS: All groups had high familiarity, but low use, of podcasts. Ownership of digital media players was higher among medical students. There was high familiarity, but low use, of other Web 2.0 technologies except for high use of instant messaging and social networking by medical students. All groups stated that they were interested in using Web 2.0 technologies for education but there was lack of knowledge and skills in how to use these new technologies. CONCLUSIONS: There is an overall high awareness of a range of new Web 2.0 technologies by both medical students and qualified medical practitioners and high interest in its use for medical education. However, the potential of Web 2.0 technologies for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education will only be achieved if there is increased training in how to use this new approach.

    Hmm…who could be providing the expertise, the knowledge and the skills to help medical students and practitioners use these tools?

  • This one mentions several tools I’ve posted about, like Healthmap, BioWizard and WhoIsSick.

    Nurs Educ Perspect. 2007 Sep-Oct;28(5):286-8.Links
    Nursing education 2.0: are Mashups useful for nursing education?
    Skiba DJ.
    Free full text: [PDF] [HTML]