Google Trends lets users see the top lists of search queries in a new way in different topics such as medications.
The Danish researchers behind FindZebra would not be happy about my title as they published a warning on the top of their search engine with the message: “This is a research project to be used only by medical professionals.” This search engine only uses medical databases similarly to SciencerollSearch and named the rare disease correctly after entering the symptoms 67% of the time, compared to 32% using Google.
I think educating both patients and medical professionals about the proper use of search engines and operators would provide even better results.
Here is their description.
There are close to 7,000 rare diseases recognized by rare disease organizations. We index over 31,000 documents covering rare and genetic diseases from 10 reputable sources. Given the number of rare diseases and rate of publication, we think FindZebra is a good companion for medical professionals.
Everyone has heard about the new Graph Search function on Facebook. It says “Want to start a book club or find a gym buddy? Connect with friends who like the same activities—and meet new people, too.” It will let Facebook users do searches by choosing different parameters (e.g. who goes to the same gym as me and is single).
Well, many bloggers are optimistic about this launch and think it will be used in medicine too. I don’t think so and everyone should hope I’ll be right. It’s fun to identify friends in my community who I share the same multiple interests with (e.g. sci-fi and reading books), but the same concept in medicine just should not work. Here are examples what Michael Spitz came up with:
- “What do my friends think about HIV?”
- “Do any of my friends have erectile dysfunction?”
- “Have any of my friends had a bad reaction to taking Drug X?”
- “What do you think about Dr. Y?”
- “How was your stay at hospital Z?”
Only a minority of Facebook users would add the medical conditions they have to their profile; or publish a post about a side effect of a new drug they are taking. As such data would not be added to Facebook, it will not be used for search. Moreover, if Facebook makes it clear to my friends which gym I go to, that’s OK as far as this is within the privacy borders I set; but making clear which conditions I have or which drugs I take is just not the function I expect from a social networking site.
WolframAlpha works fine because data are added in a professional, anonymous and structured way. See all the medical examples they have.
There are other platforms such as Yandex Wonder doing the same as Facebook Graph but in a much better quality and with much more data (its access to Facebook was blocked when Facebook Graph was released, what a “coincidence”). But it still might not be used for medical purposes.
So expect to see this kind of search engines in the near future, but hopefully this new feature will not breach the privacy of patients and doctors on Facebook.
Joshua Schwimmer, the most famous kidney doctor and blogger, had an interview with the Google team about using Google Book Search in medical education:
You know how much I admire WolframAlpha and how often I use it for medical search queries. Now they have an amazing, interactive main page with a lot of medical examples including tooth #31, check it out.