Rapid and unimpeded access to validated, accurate, digestible and easily retrievable health information is an essential tool in the care-giving belt of the astute medical professional. In stark contrast to the worlds economic decline – the repository of health information is experiencing unprecedented exponential growth, and is fast outstripping the humble physicians ability to remain ‘au courant’ and abrest with developments in medical management
So how do physicians remain informed?
With limited time to read, digest, comment and and wade through the deluge of new information – physicians have a number of options
- Search: A great deal of work has been done with semantic search to improve the current medical search engines. The ability to accurately interrogate a search repository with contextual integration will greatly enhance the rapidity of response to key questions asked by physicians
- SearchMedica, Hakia, Cognition, Lalisio and GoPubMed have been doing great work in this field and their efforts will certainly assist in the rapid dissemination of validated health information for professionals
- Subscribe: Collate and generate information from journals, and subscribe to RSS and email alerts
- MedGrab.com is a web service of the Samaritan Health Services Libraries where users can sign up to receive email alerts of the Tables-of-Contents of journals in their field
- Medscape.com – provides topic areas, CME and articles of interest. Sign up to enter a portal specific to your own area of expertise/interest and receive email alerts
- MedConnect - Australian based medical professional information portal in alpha phase to be released in October 2008
- Subscribe directly to specific journals such ScienceDirect or the BMJ
- Keep up to date with online medical newsjournals
- Read medical blogs: Unlike technology and gadget blogs – accurate medical blogs are few and far between. There is also the question of doctor-patient confidentiality and litigation which has led to the formation of a code of ethics for HealthCare bloggers – see accredited writers here.
- Some great medical blogs include
Professional search engines are leaning towards increasing sophistication to provide access to diagnostically accurate, peer reviewed and validated information physicians.
The race is on to find the most efficient way for health professionals to search for clinical images, textbook/journal articles or answers to key clinical questions. Traditionally this search has been labor intensive and frustrating unless searching for a specific journal article or the user is happy to sift through hundreds of abstracts to find the right articles to review.
The classic journal search stalwarts have been PubMed and MedlinePlus which allow searching by topics, authors or journals. The evolution and ontological derivation and semantic search is changing the way we perform search and added a deeper layer of complexity in the interrogation of the wealth of defined medical knowledge. There are many players in this field and we shall review each in turn over a series of blogs.
GoPubMed.org is an amazing piece of search architecture. It is a knowledge-based search engine for biomedical texts based on GO (gene ontology) and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) developed in 2004. GoPubMed retrieves PubMed abstracts for your search query and sorts relevant information into the categories of ‘What, Who, Where or When’.
The ‘What’ category collates abstracts according to the concept hierarchies of GO and MeSH – providing a combined search across the fields of molecular biology and medicine.
MeSH categroy describes Anatomy, Biological Sciences, Chemical and Drugs, Diseases, Health Care, Natural Sciences, Organisms, Psychiatry and Psychology, Techniques and Equipment, Named Groups, Technology, Industry, Agriculture
The ‘Who’ category helps you identify journal article authors and leading scientists within specific biomedical areas. Allows user to find top authors for a query or specific authors. Complex disambiguation algorithm relates papers published, field of expertise, name and associated authors to reveal the ‘most relevant’ results. This approach leads to impressive accuracy and if at any point the system is not correct, it can be corrected by the users.
The ‘Where’ category provides information about geographic localization of people, research centres, universities, as well as journals in which found papers were published.
The ‘When’ category is the citations time machine.
I love this search engine. Iteration is simple, effective and dynamic. From the 3 million plus authors and the 15 million plus articles within PubMed this engine gives the most time-effective result return. To ‘drill’ deeper within the data-set is highly productive and the relevance of query return of a very high quality indeed.
- Great visual features
- Relevance of results
- Simplicity of refining search results
- Guaranteed peer reviewed texts returned (PubMed)
- Combined GO and MeSH stratification system
- Simple and unobtrusive highlighting
- Much simpler than PubMed to create the linking feed
GoPubMed contains a vast array of powerful features to assist in defining the most accurate set of search results from the medical literature and is best explained in a video demonstration. Read more wonderful explanations of ontological and semantic search derivation as applied to medical science at GoPubMed.com. Another really interesting read is on AltSearchEngines.com – an interview with the GoPubMed founder Dr Michael Alvers from AltSearchEngine interview.
SearchMedica have teamed with ModernMedicine.com to provide this great ‘Professional Medical Search’ resource. SearchMedica is a health professional search engine which scans reputable journals, systematic reviews, and evidence-based articles to provide search results. Although SearchMedica displays fewer results than standard search engines, I found the return to be very accurate, clinically relevant and surprisingly comprehensive. There are several country specific sites currently available such as SearchMedica UK, France, Spain and the US – with more sites coming soon.
The search function is easy to use with a single search bar provided to perform standard keyword search across all medical fields or refined search by specialty interest (such as oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, infectious disease, musculoskeletal and paediatric medicine). Search results can be further refined by
- Research/Reviews: Articles from peer-reviewed journals, mostly original research and reviews
- Evidence-based Articles: Randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews
- Practice Guidelines: Issued by medical specialty societies and governmental agencies, plus reports from consensus development conferences
- Practical Articles/News: General information and guidance on clinical topics
- Patient Education: Brochures and handouts for patients
- Clinical Trials for Patients: Mainly US based from government database
- CME: Continuing medical education courses available online
- Complementary Medicine
I found the search results to clinical questions to be accurate and the content to be from clinically reputable sources and contain medically-relevant information. The option to further ‘broaden or narrow’ my search or review ‘related concepts’ are also great additional features.
The order of result return is different to standard search engines with results ranked by ‘relevance’ and optionally by ‘publication date’ and not by ‘popularity’. The algorithmic determination of ‘relevance’ in returning a search result is always fraught with danger as the most ‘clinically relevant’ paper/article to a search query may not be the most recently published, or the most popular and so it is always a fine balance to determine the best way to display the results. However, in the few examples tried so far I managed to find the most appropriate clinical information returned within the first page of results on most occasions.
Benefits of this medical search engine
- Easy to use
- Clinically accurate search results
- Multiple, simple search refinement options
- Result page clearly demonstrates whether the returned result is ‘freely available’ – (in pdf form); or ‘secure’ (- on a site which requires registration to view)
- Useful and functional ‘pre-determined’ search list
More information from SearchMedica can be found in their about us page and also in this great interview on AltSearchEngines.com
Hakia semantic technologies have turned their attention to professional medical search with the provision of a dedicated semantic medical search of PubMed to provide credible, fresh and relevant search result. This move away from the popularity-ranked results produces some enlightening and interesting search results to queries. The medical version for hakia can be found at these addresses
Certainly in testing over the last 3 months the results have been impressive and even the ‘testers’ who had previously been brainwashed to cogitate in ‘three keyword’ dictacisms were amenable to change…
But what of these ‘testers’ – who are they? how were they chosen? do they walk among us?
The researchers used to asses the fields of social networking, social bookmarking and semantic search have been carefully hand-picked from a supporting cast of thousands. These ‘testers’ adhered to specific technophobic requirements including
- The ability to turn on a computer (from an access point ‘other’ than the mains socket)
- The ability to conceptualise the phenomenon of email (‘send’ and receive’ functionality only)
- Knowledge of the ‘concept of search’ at or above the level of ‘Google/Yahoo’
- Disdain for discussing issues outwith the shielded confines of ‘medicus fraternicus’
- Unabashed recoil at the thought of third parties attaining ‘unrestrained knowledge’ of, from, or to the afore-mentioned – unless prior consent sought from ‘credible paper sources’
- This group of elite ‘testers’ work among us – around us – about us – and they too are blissfully unaware of their role. I like to call these ‘persons’ the Technophobic Health Education Professionals Independently Seeking ‘Search’ (THePiSS)
That said – here is a technophiles review of Google versus Hakia on search. Not impressed? Try it for yourself with key terms posed as questions and the results are generally very impressive. Taking a group like (THePiSS) to the very edge of the pixel world has been challenging – but fulfilling. Thanks to the advancement of alternative search engines, sematnic process and ontology we can help the ‘needy’ to break out from the black hole of keyword search and enter the pixelated dreamworld of today…’Seek and you shall find – seriously’