Magazine article USA TODAY

Librarians Give Pointers for Online Searches

Magazine article USA TODAY

Librarians Give Pointers for Online Searches

Article excerpt

For some patients, talking to the doctor and reading pamphlets on medical issues are sufficient to learn about their health. Others search aggressively for third-party information, sometimes to better understand or ask more informed questions of their health care providers, other times to prove their physician right or wrong. For this group of informed consumers, searching the Internet is empowering.

Patricia Anderson, head of the University of Michigan's Dentistry Library, teaches courses on using the Internet to find health-related information, and has spent the last three years researching the best consumer search techniques for The Medical Library Association Encyclopedic Guide to Searching and Finding Health Information on the Web. She collaborated on the book with Nancy Allee, director of the university's Public Health Library and Informatics.

Anderson says physicians and patients approach health topics differently--while the doctor might be concerned about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, patients often want to know if they have the very best physician for their ailment and why they got sick. The pair studied how consumers look for information, as well as the most reliable strategies to get what they want.

Here are some pointers Anderson and Allee gleaned, in collaboration with a wide variety of authors, including libraries, information and health professionals, and patient advocates:

* Try using quotation marks to group words as phrases in a search; enter different words to describe the same idea; and employ an advanced search option to define more carefully what you want. …

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