Oct 22

Got my H1N1 Vaccination

I got my 2009 H1N1 live, attenuated (nasal spray) vaccine today.

I continue to be surprised by how many otherwise rational people (including health professionals) are frightened by the prospect.

For the record: If New York State law did not require me to get both the seasonal and the H1N1 vaccine, I would get both anyway.

I’ve avoided commenting on the media coverage of Swine Flu. Why bother when Jon Stewart does it better?

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Snoutbreak ’09 – The Last 100 Days
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Last 100 Days
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis
Oct 09

Harvard Medical School’s HMS Mobile | iPhone Apps for Public Health

Harvard Medical School Presents HMS Mobile and Announces Plans to Launch iPhone Applications Aimed at Promoting Public Health

Boston, MA, October 09, 2009 –(PR.com)– The Harvard Health Publications Division of Harvard Medical School announced today that it will launch a new program called HMS Mobile to deliver a series of iPhone Applications aimed at promoting public health. The first such application will focus on the H1N1 flu pandemic and is scheduled for release to the public in early October. These applications will leverage Harvard Medical School’s extensive knowledge along with its long-standing expertise in publishing health information for the general public. The School’s goal is to provide the public with the best available information on public health-related issues, including practical advice on how to reduce risks and how to respond in the event of a public health threat.

No indication of the anticipated price to download such apps…?

Oct 06

New PubMed Handouts from the NNLM

Oh, thank goodness.

I’ve been fretting about how my library’s patrons will react to the PubMed redesign, so I’m grateful for the revised tri-fold handouts from the NNLM- they’ll probably help ease a few concerns.

The new handouts are available in .doc and .pdf formats and include:

  • Full Text and PubMed
  • PubMed Basics
  • PubMed My NCBI
  • Searching PubMed with MeSH

[via The Cornflower]

If you’ve prepared any materials to help your patrons (or your staff) use the new PubMed and you’d like to share them with others, please let me know in the comments?

Oct 01


In a recent comment, Creaky (Kathleen Crea) made me aware of LigerCat, a 3rd-Party PubMed/MEDLINE tool that is new to me. I’m really enjoying working with it.Just a reminder that I don’t consider myself an expert searcher. I figure I’m basically competent, but sometimes need to get advice from more experienced searchers (right, Melissa?) for help on more challenging literature searches- so any tool that helps me do more (or miss less) is gold to me.

I’m sure that more experienced Medical Libraryfolk don’t have to do this, but as I start putting together a lit search, I often start by going to the MeSH Browser http://www.nlm.nih.gov/mesh/MBrowser.html to begin working out what MeSH terms I might be working with. Alternately, I might go to Novo|Seek or GoPubMed with a few key words to get a frequency analysis of MeSH terms. In these examples, I’m doing some preliminary searching on Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis.

LigerCat isn’t necessarily *better* at this, but its presentation is simpler. Rather than putting the frequency analysis of MeSH terms in a left sidebar, it gives a cloud of MeSH terms:

Seeing the biggest, most obvious tag item in the cloud (see above) is delightful. If one clicks on the tags in the MeSH cloud, they’re added to the search. When you’re done adding terms, you can click “Go to PubMed” to run the search there.

In this example, the query run in PubMed is:
(“encephalomyelitis, acute disseminated”[MeSH Terms] OR (“encephalomyelitis”[All Fields] AND “acute”[All Fields] AND “disseminated”[All Fields]) OR “acute disseminated encephalomyelitis”[All Fields] OR (“acute”[All Fields] AND “disseminated”[All Fields] AND “encephalomyelitis”[All Fields])) AND (“Encephalomyelitis, Acute Disseminated”[mh] AND “Humans”[mh] AND “Treatment Outcome”[mh])

…and the results aren’t bad.

If I was caught up in Google Reader (I’m not, and haven’t been for about 15 months), I would have noticed Creaky’s post on LigerCat a couple of days ago. This reminds me to move Kathleen’s feed into my “High Priorities” folder. You may want to do the same.

Sep 17

CiteSmart (3rd-Party PubMed/MEDLINE Tool)


CiteSmart is a citation software specifically developed for PubMed users to faciliate the writing of manuscripts and other academic documents. With CiteSmart, retrieving references from PubMed is just a click away. This revolutionary software has many new features not found anywhere else. You will be able to:

* Search PubMed from your Word document.
* Insert a citation directly into your document from Internet Explorer.

These two features will save an enormous amount of time. It reduces extraneous clicking and the need to create a database of references. CiteSmart handles it all!

Anyone care to try it and write up a proper review? Perhaps for the JMLA?

Sep 11

EBSCO’s Free Influenza Portal

New to me.

EBSCO has a portal for free information on the ‘flu from

Due to Pandemic H1N1 Influenza and concerns about the 2009/2010 flu season, the EBSCO Publishing Medical and Nursing editors of DynaMed™, Nursing Reference Center™ (NRC) and Patient Education Reference Center™ (PERC) have made key influenza information from these resources freely available to health care providers worldwide.

The editorial teams will monitor the research and update these resources continuously throughout the upcoming flu season.

Sep 10

‘Qualities’ not ‘Quality’ – Text Analysis Methods to Classify Consumer Health Websites

Guocai Chen, Jim Warren, Joanne Evans. ‘Qualities’ not ‘Quality’ – Text Analysis Methods to Classify Consumer Health Websites. electronic Journal of Health Informatics, 2009; 4(1): e5.


There is an increasing need to help health consumers to achieve timely, differentiated access to quality online healthcare resources. This paper describes and evaluates methods for automated classification of consumer health Web content with respect to qualitative attributes relevant to the preferences of individual health consumers. This is illustrated in the context of identifying breast cancer consumer web pages that are ‘supportive’ versus ‘medical’ perspective, as compared to an existing manual classification employed by a breast cancer portal with personalised search preference options. Classification is performed based on analysis of word co-occurrences and an enhanced decision tree classifier (a decision forest). Current classification test results for ‘medical’ versus ‘supportive’ type resources are 90% accurate (95% confidence interval, 86-94%) using this decision forest classifier. These early results are indicating that language use patterns can be used to automate such classification with acceptable accuracy; however, a wider range of websites and metadata attributes needs to be assessed and compared to end-user feedback. Future application may be either in a tool to facilitate metadata coders in populating the databases of domain-specific portals such as BCKOnline, or in providing tagging or sorting on content type on live search results from health consumers.

Full Text: PDF (Free, registration required)

Sep 07

Lin On PubGet and 3rd Party PubMed Tools

Since I don’t have the option of implementing PubGet (previously mentioned) at my place of work, getting to read about the experiences that others have had with it is a treat.

Over at Up to the Waves, Lin shares her observations.

Lin also writes, however:

Pubget is only one of the 3rd party life science search engines that tries to create shortcut to search PubMed. If you are a serious researcher, my advise is using the 3rd party search engines with caution or as a pre-search. Getting comfortable and familiar using PubMed itself is your goal. If you need assistance using PubMed, contact your medical librarians.

I can’t wholly agree with this. Not all 3rd-Party PubMed/Medline tools are meant to replace PubMed, and some can simply do things that PubMed itself cannot. If you are a serious researcher, my advice is to make yourself aware of all the tools at your disposal, and use the best ones for the purpose at hand.

Sep 03

Physician Rating Sites: Pew-pew-pew!

Bleah. Yet another article about Web sites for rating doctors.

Is anyone else really tired of seeing these articles and pretending these sites matter? They might one day, but they don’t now.

pew-pew-pew-small Anyway, the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Please tell me I’m not the only one who quietly thinks “pew-pew-pew!” to himself every time Pew is mentioned?) says:

Nearly half (47%) of internet users, or 35% of adults, have turned to the internet for information about doctors or other health professionals.”

Nothing surprising there.

“These health information seekers, however, are not likely to post their own reviews of doctors: just 7% of those who looked for information about doctors online (and 4% of all internet users) report posting a review of a doctor online.”

Well, nothing surprising there, either. The vast majority of Wikipedia’s users (or Digg’s) are there to read, not to contribute. Isn’t this the overwhelming trend in most “social media”? (And wouldn’t noting this context be important? What does this item from Pew mean without such context?)

I’ll state again that I think every physician rating site I’ve seen is useless. When patrons (or friends) ask me how to find a good specialist, I recommend avoiding these sites. The advice I gave one family member was to get in touch with local, regional, and national patient support groups for the diagnosed (or suspected) condition necessitating a visit to a specialist. If you want the opinion of informed patients, that’s where you’ll find it.

Just for good measure:

I like lolcats. Sue me.

Sep 02

All Your HealthBase Are Belong to Us (Updated 9/3/2009)


The folks at Netbase have issued an apology:

Our first release of healthBase yesterday surfaced a few embarrassing and offensive bugs. These were far in the minority of results but enough to keep us up late improving the site. We sincerely regret and apologize in particular for any offense caused.

…I wasn’t offended. I just thought the tool was awful.


TechCrunch called healthBase “The Ultimate Medical Content Search Engine.”

I beg to differ. Rather than getting into what it is supposed to do, lets just try a few queries and see how its semantic technologies perform.

First, a search for causes of AIDS.

As a Red Sea Pedestrian myself, I’m fascinated to learn that Jews cause AIDS. Huh. What if I was a Jewish Physiotherapist? How would I live with myself?

Next, we’ll look at the “Pros & Cons of lithotripsy”:

Take a look at the “Pros” list. These are just partial phrases describing what lithotripsy is. This list of pros and cons make no sense at all.

Among the sources it searches:
– Wikipedia
– NaturalNews.com (Check out the embedded video in the right sidebar and listen to the lyrics- there’s some idiotic stuff there)

I’d recommend to healthBase that they dump these and instead search sites like MedlinePlus.

HealthBase isn’t even a good medical content search engine, much less the “ultimate”.

Sep 02

Pharma Linkdump

Pharma items that caught my attention over the last couple of months:

Great tutorial from the Dalhousie University College of Pharmacy on searching for drug information in PubMed.

Produced by UBC Faculty

The main goal of the Therapeutics Education Collaboration (TEC) is to provide physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, other health professionals, and the public with current, evidence-based, practical and relevant information on rational drug therapy. The overall philosophy of the TEC is to encourage clinicians to engage in shared informed decision-making, critical thinking, and exercise some degree of healthy skepticism when it comes to the use of new and old medications.

Be sure to to check out the podcast

Medical Librarian and blogger Rachel Walden notes that Google searches for drug information no longer seem to return results from MedlinePlus. I agree with one commenter that this is mostly likely the result of SEO, and Rachel asks just the right follow-up questions: “Should NLM be spending time/money on SEO? Should Google find better ways to block SEO efforts on quality-sensitive topics like health information?”

From the ACRL Wiki comes this list of resources on Information Literacy in Pharmacy.

SIDER (Side Effects Resource) is new to me.

SIDER contains information on marketed medicines and their recorded adverse drug reactions. The information is extracted from public documents and package inserts. The available information include side effect frequency, drug and side effect classifications as well as links to further information, for example drug–target relations.

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 (archive.org).
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 (archive.org). Archive.org permits clarification of the issue of dates – and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about authorship, whether charitable or otherwise. In sum, archive.org 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.)

Sep 01

Understanding Medical Tests with Wolfram|Alpha

I thought Wolfram|Alpha was pretty neat when I first heard about it and looked over the examples of its potential use in Health and Medicine, but I didn’t really give it another look until I stumbled across this post from the Wolfram|Alpha blog, “Understanding Medical Tests with Wolfram|Alpha”.

Bookmarked for later potential use.