Patient Handouts

David Rothman is developing a Patient Handout Search utilizing Google Custom Search Engine.  The simple design should be easy to use on mobile devices such as tablet PCs.

Printable handouts are culled from free authoritative sources such as UpToDate Patient Handouts, MedlinePlus, Mayo Clinic,, and InteliHealth. There are buttons for selecting Spanish language, seniors, low literacy, pediatrics, and large print. Additional languages may be added later.


Doctors using Google get mixed results

An article in the August 23 Los Angeles Times offers some insight on physicians’ use of the Internet and Google in daily practice.

While noting that “86% of doctors say they regularly use the Internet on the job,” Dr. Rahul K. Parikh reports that it “sometimes feels like cheating on an exam” and the results, even from Google Scholar, aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. He points out, for example, that Google Scholar pulls up old articles first because their algorithm gives greater weight to articles that are cited more. I didn’t know that!

Read the full story: In Practice: Dr. Google has mixed results

via Digital Pathology Blog

Google stories

A Bing search box has turned up at the top of our browsers at work, and I’ve used it a few times, and it’s OK. But I’m still a Google user just because I’m comfortable with it.  So today’s NPR story, “Bing vs. Google: a weeklong experiment” was really intriguing.  National correspondant James Fallows used Bing … or rather, started to use Bing … to track facts for a news story. He found some things missing from Bing, and some missing from Google, and had the best results using‘s side-by-side display of the two.   Try it out!  (Remember Dogpile?)

Another recent Google story in Search Engine Land: Google’s Personalized Results: the “new normal” that deserves extraordinary attention. Earlier this month, Google announced in its blog that personalized search will now be available to signed-out users. While it’s possible to opt out — see the Google Blog story for details — most of the time, most search results will be “customized” to reflect previous searches.  The Search Engine Land story explores the implications.

— Google’s Personalized Results story via Jessamyn West’s the nature of observing disturbs the observed

Firefox enhancements for Google

I’m restricted to Internet Explorer on the job, but I love being able to customize Firefox at home.

Dennis O’Reilly at the Worker’s Edge passes on some hints for optimizing Google searching with his post Three Firefox add-ons enhance Google.  The add-ons:

  • GoogleEnhancer, which  pulls some of the Advanced Search options into drop-down boxes next to the Google Search box and offers ways to customize the Google results screen
  • Googlepedia, to run your Google search in Wikipedia and display the results on the right side of your Google results screen
  • Search Cloudlet, providing tag clouds for Google results

Epidemiology in the age of Google

Canadian researchers, back in 2006, called it Infodemiologyusing volume and locations of Internet searches to track influenza outbreaks. Dr. Gunther Eysenbach’s paper notes that:

The “Google ad sentinel method” proved to be more timely, more accurate and – with a total cost of Can$365.64 for the entire flu-season – considerably cheaper than the traditional method of reports on influenza-like illnesses observed in clinics by sentinel physicians.

Now, Google makes this disease-tracking information available directly to the public. The New York Times this month reports that Google uses searches to track flu’s spread. Google’s new service, Google Flu Trends, aggregates data from user searches to create national and state-by-state charts showing levels of interest in a variety of flu-related terms, such as “muscle aches” and “chest congestion.” A comparison of historical data from the CDC and past years’ Google searches shows a correlation between the two, with Google data actually showing the trends two weeks before the CDC data.

via David Rothman

Metasearch on the Cheap: More on Google CSE

As I continue to explore, I’m finding it even more useful. Thinking of the example of Google Scholar, I realized that I could set up a search engine to search across many of my IP-validated resources. Essentially what I’m finding: if Google can see it, it can be included.

Some things I have been able to add:

  • Publisher websites such as,,
  • Individual journals such as and
  • MD Consult – a proprietary database, but visible to Google
  • Free sites such as PubMed , TRIP, Bandolier, National Guidelines Clearinghouse

Fulltext sources I could not add because Google can’t see into them:

  • Proquest
  • StatRef
  • Ebscohost

My tip for finding out what can be added:

  1. Go to Google Advanced Search
  2. Put a common medical word in the All These Words box (I’m using gastric)
  3. Put the domain portion of a URL, such as, in the Domain Name box
  4. Click the Google Search button. If I get results, I know it will work in Google CSE.

Some advantages to setting up a Google custom search engine with IP-validated content: it’s free; patrons are comfortable with the interface; the results list links to full-text in one or two steps.

Disadvantages: no “controlled vocabulary” – need to remember to search British and US spellings (esophagus/oesophagus); doesn’t include all the resources we buy.

And here’s a tip for setting up the Google CSE box on your web page: Google’s “control panel” for your custom search engine includes a page called “Code.” When you copy and paste the “Search box code” on your internet or intranet page, be sure to add to the Form Action section after the http:// . Otherwise … it just doesn’t work.

Correction: On the code page, rather than adding to the Form Action section as I mentioned above, it’s simpler to select  “On a Google hosted page” in the Search Results Hosting section.

Customized Website Search Engines

David Rothman has taken the list of medical library websites published by M.D. Hardin ( and built a Custom Search Engine to search them:

Custom Google Search is available free, and even ad-free for nonprofits. I tried this out; take a look at my “EBP Site Search.” After refining it a bit (I need to customize the appearance), I plan to add the link to my intranet page. It was a bit tricky to add websites and get them to work, so here are my tips:

Build your own Google Custom Search at .