Health and Medical Research Strategies

Article excerpt

Experts give advice about the best ways to find medical information online

Medicine is one of the research areas most affected by the growth of the Internet. Medical researchers are able to access recent refereed publications from around the world. Clinicians can find out about the most up-to-date treatments and medications. Consumers can learn much more about their own conditions and how to manage them. However, medicine is big business. Extensive advertising supports many of the free Web sites, but how accurate is the information they contain? What fee-based services are available in addition to the free ones? What are the best combinations of services for finding health information? The 10 experts profiled in Super Searchers on Health & Medicine can help us figure it all out.

Susan M. Detwiler, who conducted and edited these interviews, has many years of experience in the health information field. After earning her M.B.A., she spent 9 years conducting market research in the medical-devices industry and started her own firm, the Detwiler Group, in 1985. She produces the annual Detwiler's Directory of Health & Medical Resources and is also a writer and speaker on health information topics. Series editor Reva Basch is a well-known information professional and writer. Together, Detwiler and Basch have gathered insights from some of the finest health information professionals working in the U.S.

Super Searchers on Health & Medicine follows the familiar format of the series. Each interview starts out with biographical information, including how the interviewees got into this particular field and a description of their current job. The discussion then moves on to their favorite strategies for medical research, covering databases as well as Web sites. Finally, they give some of their "blue sky" ideas about the future of health information. Detwiler has selected a variety of participants for Super Searchers on Health & Medicine. They range from medical school librarians to commercial consultants, from a doctor who moderates online patient forums to creators and marketers of databases. Each interview fills a chapter that ends with "Super Searcher Power Tips." These are specific quotes that Detwiler has chosen as the most useful or thought provoking.

An important point raised by all the searchers is their reliance on tried-and-true medical databases. The three most significant in health and medicine are judged to be MEDLINE, EMBASE, and BIOSIS. Other important databases cited were CINAHL, SCISEARCH, ERIC, and PsycLit, depending on the subject and emphasis of the research. There are also many specific databases on subjects like pharmaceuticals. The searchers like the commercial databases because they trust them. They also appreciate the precision of using tree-structured indexes like MeSH. Many of the searchers are expert at using MEDLINE and share their tips, such as: "Sometimes, you need to combine a MeSH heading with a keyword if it's a newer topic that doesn't have a suitable MeSH heading. …