Finding and understanding medical information online

Jeff Harwell, Christopher Pentoney, Gondy Augusta Leroy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


The internet provides a wealth of information brought together by millions of people. Searching for information is one of the most frequent online activities. As a result, search engines have become tremendously efficient in gathering more information and presenting it quickly and efficiently. The information is available at the click of a button and presented in bite-size text snippets. There are two potential problems with today’s use of search engines that have an especially disturbing impact in health care. First of all, not all information is trustworthy, much is incomplete, biased or subjective, and finding a complete answer in response to a query is not facilitated by the search engine interface or the results presentation. Second, searching objectively is difficult. Only a few words are used to search among millions of documents, those are used by the search engine to guess, estimate, or decide what is relevant, and only matching information is returned even if the stated query is erroneous. Users, in turn, are often unaware of missing information. Many, especially younger generations, do not read entire texts but limit themselves to scanning snippets provided in the results list.[1] These limitations are problematic since these search engines inform and influence entire families and communities. This chapter will review query options for searching and presenting results and how these impact searching for and understanding of medical information by patients, caregivers and medical professionals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInformation Technology for Patient Empowerment in Healthcare
PublisherWalter de Gruyter GmbH
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781614514343
ISBN (Print)9781614515920
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Computer Science
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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