TITLE: Medscape

ACCESS: http://www.medscape.com.

Medscape is the premier web portal for healthcare professionals and has garnered high praise and accolades from both the medical community and the information industry. Since 1995, Medscape has offered healthcare professionals a centralized starting point for locating high-quality, peer-reviewed information and accessing a variety of value-added services. The site is poised for even greater growth in the future, as evidenced by CBS' recent acquisition of one-third of the company and a strategic alliance with AOL.

One of Medscape's roles is that of information aggregator. Registered users (registration is free) can access full-text articles from about 50 peer-reviewed medical journals, as well as professional trade publications, specialized medical textbooks, and medical news periodicals. The homepage provides the latest medical headlines from wire services and links to practice guidelines, treatment updates, conference schedules, clinical management, a medical dictionary and patient resources such as Micromedex CareNotes. Medical professionals can review summaries of the latest research presented in well-known journals such as JAMA, The Lancet, and New England Journal of Medicine. Three literature databases (MEDLINE, TOXLINE, and AIDSLINE) and a drug information database can be searched without leaving the site.

Medscape also creates content, in the form of 7 peer-reviewed electronic journals that are available in full-text at the site. One of these e-journals, Medscape Women's Health, was recently selected for indexing in MEDLINE. Another original feature is "Next Day Summaries," which provides rapid reports on presentations at many important medical conferences.

Though Medscape contains a massive amount of information, it is easily navigable and consistently presented. No matter what page is currently displayed, every section of the site is available within one or two clicks. Users can instantly link to any section of an article when viewing the full-text, or link to related articles on the site. A search box at the bottom of every page allows keyword searching of all full-text articles on the site or other information resources such as medical images, news, and patient information. Once the search is completed on one of these databases, it can be rerun on any of the others.

Value-added services that appeal to a professional audience are an online medical bookstore, personal webpages for physicians, online CME credit, document delivery services, free web-based e-mail, personal finance information and stock quotes, e-mail updates and job postings. Users can customize the presentation of the site so that their Medscape homepage contains information relevant to their specialty.

Medscape features free searching of three literature databases -- MEDLINE, AIDSLINE, and TOXLINE -- and a drug information database, without leaving the website. At one time, Medscape was one of the few places on the web where MEDLINE, AIDSLINE, and TOXLINE were freely accessible. However, the free, powerful search interfaces that are now available at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) website (http://www.nlm.nih.gov) are better choices for searching these databases, allowing more sophisticated and flexible searching. It should be noted that even a simple, one-term search of MEDLINE using the Medscape interface will yield quite a different set of results than the same term using NLM's PubMed interface. Although Medscape's help screen contains some explanation of the search algorithms that are used, some of the discrepancies between the two search engines are still mysterious. For example, using Medscape's search engine, an all-fields search of the term "rosacea" for publication years 1998-1999 resulted in 44 MEDLINE "hits"; on the same day, the same search using NLM's PubMed resulted in 90 hits.

Medscape is targeted towards healthcare professionals, so most of the information is research-oriented and highly technical and therefore may not be useful to the general public. To reach the consumer health information market, Medscape and CBS have recently launched a consumer health website called CBS Healthwatch by Medscape (http://CBS.medscape.com). At present, though, better destinations for consumer health information are sites such as the National Library of Medicine's MEDLINEplus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus) or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Healthfinder (http://www.healthfinder.gov). Much more consumer-oriented, full-text content is available at these sites than at CBS/Medscape.

Because Medscape offers one-stop shopping for high-quality information and is aggressively marketed towards the medical professional, librarians serving medical professionals should be familiar with this site. Medscape is an excellent model of a comprehensive information service for a specialized audience.

Nancy E. Adams, M.L.I.S.
Science and Engineering Center, Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469
nancy.adams@umit.maine.edu


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