Using the big boys to search for consumer health information

I’m sure you’ve heard people say “just Google it”. Not only have I heard the phrase, but I’ve used it myself. But how do search engines like Google and Bing work for health related information? Out of simple curiosity I spent a few minutes with Google and Bing to find out.

Drug searches
A search for losartan using Google resulted in a link to the NIH’s United States Pharmacopeia as the first item listed. The site provides consumers with basic drug information from AHFS Consumer Medication Information. Not bad.

Bing produced similar results, albeit from a different source. Bing uses a tabbed user interface to provide consumers with access to drug information from Gold Standard and Wikipedia, of which I am not a proponent. Not bad either.

Disease states
A search for MRSA in Google resulted in a link to Google Health where I found basic information provided by A.D.A.M. The second item on the Google results page was a link to a page at the Mayo Clinic on MRSA.

The MRSA search in Bing resulted in the same tabbed interface that I saw with the drug search. The tabbed interface gave easy access to information on MRSA through Bing Health, provided by Healthwise , and also Wikepedia. The information at Bing Health was just as generic as the information found at Google Health. The second item on the Bing results page was the same as Google, i.e. the Mayo Clinic MRSA information page.

While none of this information is intended for professional use, both search engines provided enough information for the average consumer. I think it’s time for @kevinclauson to dig into this a little deeper.

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