Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Where does your PCP get their health care information

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Sep• 06•07

You walk into your doctors office hoping for a diagnosis to your most recent ailment.  The doctor runs some tests and leaves the room telling you he will return.  Ten minutes later, the doctor tells you that you have diabetes.  What was the doctor doing during the ten minutes?  Most likely, he was reviewing the tests, thinking about your particular case, and checking the internet for more information.  What technical website did the doctor use for your diagnosis?  The most likely answer is Google. 

At least this is what an article on the Alt Search Engine website states.  The article continues:

We surveyed 6,000 physicians and learned that Google and other consumer search engines were frequently used by physicians to get clinical information. Among physicians 45 and under, more than 90 percent said they used the Internet and search engines frequently, and Google was the preferred search engine among all specialties surveyed. When asked why, the answer was simple. Forty-three percent offered the top response, “it seemed like a good place to start.â€?

Google may be popular among physicians, but they also expressed a certain degree of dissatisfaction, with 65 percent of primary care physicians (PCPs) saying Google searches returned too many irrelevant results.

Despite the primacy of Google, new search engines are coming into the market specifically targeted to physicians, researchers and patients.  PubMed is a search tool most often used by researchers (like myself) to review scholarly journal articles.  There is also another tool called GoPubMed which also helps physicians and researchers stay abreast of the latest medical research.

SearchMedica is a site which I found to be more practical in that it links to government and physician authorities on different diseases.  For instance, searching for ‘diabetes,’ the first four results were the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), the CDC’s Diabetes Public Health Resource, an article from the journal Diabetes Care, and the CDC’s Diabetes Frequently Asked Questions.

Other health search engines include: Healthline, GoPubMed, RevolutionHealth, Kosmix, CognitionSearch, GenieKnows (Health), MEDgle, Helia, ReleMed, MedWhat, MedicineNet, Diagnosaurus, WebMD, and HealthExcite.

The internet has an abundance of healthcare information available; the only problem left to solve is how to organize and access all of it.

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  1. Jason Shafrin says:

    There is also another website called UpToDate which is recommended by my colleague in the medical school. For UCSD faculty and students, this can be accessed through the UCSD library at: http://scilib.ucsd.edu/bml/static/dbases.htm#U

  2. housemonkey says:

    I think this might be a case of measurement error in the survey- Google is listed as the predominant “search engine.” I have yet to meet a physician under 45 who does not use UpToDate as their primary, or at least top 3, Internet-based source of information. However, UpToDate is not a search engine, but a reference site with topics that are continuously updated by specialty experts. (Who attempt to parse the swaths of medical literature, judge the strength of the studies, and come up with practical recommendations.)