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


Medical blogs raise privacy concerns

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition today featured a story about blogging by doctors. This brief report touches on various types of blogging by physicians – from case reports to management problems like malpractice suits to venting about problem patients difficult cases. One interviewee — a psychiatrist — suggests that doctors who use blogs to vent should seek therapy rather than airing their feelings in public. Another physician suggests that the blogs are useful since they offer patients a behind-the-scenes look at medicine. He advises, though, not to take case reports at face value since details will have been changed to protect patient confidentiality. Read the transcript or listen to the audio: Doctor blogs raise concerns about privacy:

(Corrected copy 3/14/08 ss)

Medical Spam

Canadian researchers recently conducted a study of medical spam emails, by opening an email box and ordering drugs and herbal remedies they were offered. The original report is open access: Gernburd P, Jadad AR (2007) Will Spam Overwhelm Our Defenses? Evaluating Offerings for Drugs and Natural Health Products. PLoS Med 4(9): e274 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040274 .

The story turned up today (11/15/2007) on NPR as: The Truth about medical spam. (Audio file.) Sydney Spiesel, a physician columnist for, reported study findings that, of more than 4,000 spam received, about one-third were medical; and after a couple of weeks elapsed, only 19 of the web links in the thousand-plus spam were still active. The researchers ordered products from these sites using a credit card, and nine products actually arrived. The study did not report whether the products received were actually what they purported to be, and Dr. Spiesel speculated that perhaps the researchers planned another article.

Foxnews published a story about the study on September 17 titled: Study: Spam E-mail good source for prescription drugs. Interesting interpretation. Do you suppose they actually read the article?

How the Internet is Changing Health Care

A couple of  stories posted at the Pew Internet & American Life Project  describe recent reports on “e-patient” use of the Internet to obtain information about their own health conditions – or that of a relative, neighbor or friend who is not so conversant with using the Internet.

Doctor-directed Health Resources  describes a recent Pew report, E-Patients with a Disability or Chronic Disease.  The report indicates that patients whose doctors direct them to vetted Internet sites for information do better than those seeking information on their own.  Patients with chronic disease are more likely than other “e-patients” to report that their Internet searches affected “treatment decisions, their interactions with their doctors, their ability to cope with their condition, and their dieting and fitness regimen.”

The Pew commentary also links an NPR story that expands on the E-Patients report, with patient interviews and information from additional resources.   Patients turn to the Internet for Health Information at the NPR website includes both a transcript and an audio file.

The second Pew post  links to a new Internet video series, Digital Health Revolution, at; Pew’s Susannah Fox is among the first guests.  ScribeMedia also produced a really cool 5-minute History of Medicine video and has an additional Health section at their website.  These are free resources, but in streaming video, which may be blocked by some hospital Internet filters.