Medical students use Google for rapid route to useful imaging information

January 22, 2008

Radiologists seeking a specific piece of medical information online should consider initiating searches with Google, which provides a list of medical resources likely to contain the information needed, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

Radiologists seeking a specific piece of medical information online should consider initiating searches with Google, which provides a list of medical resources likely to contain the information needed, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Elliot Fishman, director of diagnostic radiology and body CT, and colleagues designed a test to determine which web resources best delivered accurate information to medical students most efficiently. Efficiency was based on the number of links one had to view.

Students were randomized to complete the exam by using either Google or any other web resource. Participants repeated the exam with the alternative arm in two weeks.

An analysis of the results from 86 medical students who completed the protocol showed that Google was more efficient compared with all alternatives (mean links 1.50 versus 1.94, p = 0.002). Following a Google search, 89% of end-sites identified that provided correct answers were medical websites.

The most frequent alternatives used to initiate a search were the search engines Yahoo and Ask, and the encyclopedia Wikipedia. Yahoo yielded comparable correctness to Google (96% versus 97%) but was less efficient (mean links 1.90 versus 1.54, p<0.001).

Non-Google search engines were more efficient than other resources such as medical websites, Wikipedia, and Pubmed. Used for 10 searches, Pubmed required a mean of 4.25 links to find the correct answer, Fishman said at the 2007 RSNA meeting.

"Some students who didn't use Google prior to the test switched afterwards," Fishman said.

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