Medical Info on the Internet. Reliable?

14 06 2010

When we or our loved ones are diagnosed with a condition, many of us turn to the Internet for information.

Last year, 61 % of Americans used the Internet to research health topics.

The question is, how do we know if the medical information we find online is worth the time spent looking it up?

The National Library of Medicine has a 16 minute tutorial in both English and Spanish that helps users distinguish between reputable sites and those that may not be credible.

When faced with a potentially catastrophic diagnosis, we want to believe the hopeful sites that promise a cure, no matter who the authors may be, but we’re better served in the end by paying attention to details that tell us if a website is trustworthy.

Following are some things to note when determining a site’s credibility:

  • Who sponsors the website and are they easy to identify?
  • Is the sponsor’s contact information easy to find?
  • Who are the sites’ authors?
  • Who reviews the text?
  • Is it easy to determine when something was written?
  • Is there a privacy policy?
  • Does the information sound too good to be true?

The Internet can provide real assistance to us as we work to become team members in our own health care.

One benefit to having access to new technology is we can arrive at our doctor’s office better prepared for the visit. Given that doctor/patient visits last on average only eight to10 minutes, this is good news.

The more we understand walking in the door, the more time we’ll have to get the information that only comes from our healthcare professionals.

Bottom line is, we shouldn’t believe everything we read on the Internet, but if we become discerning in our online research, we’ll be more effective health advocates for ourselves and those we love.

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PubMed: Obtaining Full-Text Journal Articles

23 04 2010

In our previous PubMed articles, we discussed finding free articles online and conducting more effective searches. In this PubMed post, we discuss ways to get full text articles that are not free online.

Visit Your Libraries

Local Library

Check with your local library to see if they have the journal in question, or if they can get it in for you. This may be your only recourse for getting full articles at no cost, even if you have to wait awhile to get the journal.

Nearest Medical Library

If your local library doesn’t have or cannot get the journal or article you want, contact your nearest medical library. Call the National Network of Libraries of Medicine at 800-338-7657 or visit their website to locate your nearest library. (You can’t call this number to get help finding information, but they can help you locate a library.)

Order Online Through PubMed

Loansome Doc

PubMed is primarily for medical students and professionals, which is why it provides a service called Loansome Doc that enables you to 1) find medical libraries in your state serving the general public, and 2) easily and conveniently order journal articles through PubMed.

When viewing an article’s abstract, clicking on the “Send To” link opens a box from which you can select “Order.” Clicking the “Order articles” button will direct you to enter your Loansome Doc login information.

PubMed Loansome Doc

Ordering option for Loansome Doc

Registration for Loansome Doc is free; you only pay when you order an article. To sign up for Loansome Doc, visit the Loansome Doc signup page.  The first step will help you locate a medical library near you. You will need to contact the medical library of your choice to get signed up with them.

If you are not a healthcare provider or student, the medical library will consider you an “unaffiliated user.” Each library will have different criteria regarding unaffiliated users, pricing, and document delivery formats (hardcopy vs. electronic, e.g.).

LinkOut

If you click on an article’s title in your PubMed search results, you can click “LinkOut” at the bottom of the abstract to see online sources providing full text. You do not need a Loansome Doc account for these, but you may have to set up an account on the website of the online source to place an order.

PubMed - LinkOut

Viewing options for ordering under LinkOut

So to sum up:

  • Try your local library or visit a medical library (if you have one close to you).
  • If you are planning to order articles on a relatively frequent basis, sign up for Loansome Doc so you can place all your orders from within PubMed.
  • If you are planning to order articles relatively infrequently, try ordering from a LinkOut service.




PubMed: Refining Searches with MeSH

5 04 2010

Our previous PubMed article described how you could search for journal articles using simple search terms, like you would on the Internet. However, if you want your search to be more targeted and effective, you should use MeSH search terms.

What’s MeSH? Sounds messy.

MeSH (Medical Subject Heading Terms) terms are medically-oriented keywords. Because PubMed is indexing medical journal articles, you will generate better search results if you use medical terms used by PubMed. Previously, our approach was:

  1. Enter keywords into PubMed
  2. Get results

Using MeSH terms, our approach will be:

  1. Enter keywords in MeSH to find MeSH terms
  2. Enter those MeSH terms into PubMed
  3. Get more targeted results

Great! How do I do this?

First, go to the MeSH homepage. Then enter a keyword in the search box, and click the “Go” button. In this example, we’ve entered “hepatitis” and the results are displayed below the term.

Finding MeSH terms

Click to enlarge

Every term or phrase listed here by number is a MeSH search term. Below each term is the definition for that term. Find the terms that most closely match what you have in mind, and check the box next to them. Then click the “Send to” drop-down box and choose “Search Box with AND.” A second search box appears above your search results with the MeSH term inside.

Sending MeSH terms to the new search box

Click to enlarge

Now you can add additional MeSH terms to further refine your search. Try entering “child” in the field at the top, and click “Go” to get MeSH terms related to “child.” Then click the box(es) next to your desired terms, and send them to the search box as you did in the step above.

If you want to exclude a term, choose “Search Box with NOT.”

If you want to search for articles that contain at least one of the terms you’ve sent to the search box, but not necessarily all of them, choose “Search Box with OR.”

Once you’ve sent your desired MeSH terms to the search box, click the “PubMed Search” button directly below it. You will then see a page of results, like the example below:

Getting results from your MeSH terms

Click to enlarge

You can now interact with the search results as we discussed in our previous PubMed article. Watch the blog for future articles on PubMed searching.





Searching Parents…Meet PubMed!

15 03 2010

When you’re a parent searching for information about your child’s medical condition, it doesn’t take long to exhaust the online resources most readily available. MedlinePlus…  Mayo Clinic…  WebMD…  But where do you go when you need more?

If you’re ready to dig deep, you can turn to journal articles for more information and research. One way to search journal articles is to visit NIH’s PubMed website.

You can enter keywords into the search box at the top of the page, and you will get results. But you’ll get a lot of them, and some won’t really be as targeted as you’d like. There are a number of ways to get better results, and we’ll be discussing these in upcoming posts, but today we’re going to show you the most economical: Filter by free text!

First, enter some keywords to search by and click the “Search” button. In our demo shots below, we use “chronic pediatric hepatitis.”

PubMed homepage

The next page will shows you some results. Depending on your personality, you’re either happy to see the 488 results returned by this search, or reeling with shock at the thought of sifting through 488 results! But for today’s purposes, we’re going to narrow our results the thrifty way, by clicking on “Free Full Text” on the right side of the screen.

Search results for "chronic pediatric hepatitis"

Below you can see the 61 free, full text articles available to you. Click on the “Free article” link under the citation.

Search results showing only those with free full text available

PubMed shows you services on the right that provide the article’s text free online. Choose one and start reading!

Links to free full text

Watch the blog for more posts on conducting targeted searches and finding full-text articles both on and offline.

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