This feature is for lawyers who are busy with their law practice. You may hear others rave about valuable Internet resources. But often it seems that all you get from your Internet surfing is eye strain. Let Calloway and Kennaday serve as your Internet concierge for a tour of useful and interesting websites.
Sites for Sore Eyes
By Jim Calloway and Courtney Kennaday
Doctor, Doctor—Give Me the News!
We aren’t sure what we like more about medical research on the Internet—the fact that it is a boon to lawyers in need of expert information or that we can prediagnose ourselves before going to the doctor. The Web is a rich resource for medical sleuthing, but if you want to separate the plasma from the blood (so to speak), you need more than Google. We’re going to look at some of the web’s best sites for medical research, starting with some old-fashioned, general practitioner advice.
WebMD® Founded in 1998, it is almost a given that any medical research on the Web can begin with the well-known WebMD. A lawyer seeking to familiarize herself with anything from asbestosis to repetitive stress injuries to medications can make a decent start using WebMD®. True, you will also encounter more than a few diet and beauty tips (what is the best way to whiten teeth?), but don’t let the fact that WebMD is popular with the public cause you to overlook its sizable offerings. ( Hypochondriac alert: you will love the Symptom Checker, which uses an illustration of the human body. Just plug in your sex, age group, and click on the part of your body that hurts.)
Medscape Acquired by WebMD® in 2001, Medscape requires registration, which is free. Once registered, take advantage of the ability to search Medline, Medscape, and a drug reference all at once. Medscape includes full-text articles, continuing medical education materials, and news; Medline, which caters to practicing physicians; and a drug reference source that combines content from the FDA, First Databank, and the ASHP Pharmacopeia.
PubMed Central (PMC) The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature, providing free access to the full text of articles. PubMed also searches Medline. To search, enter one or more search terms (such as topic, author, or journal title) or visit the PMC Journal List to browse journal titles, holdings, and embargo information. We recommend visiting Entrez Help (in the frame on the left), for instructions on using the Entrez Global Query to search across databases. With so much information, in so many databases, we found ourselves calling on “Dr. Boolean” to cure our research blues.
Medline Plus The National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, created and maintains MedlinePlus. Medline Plus includes the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, with an extensive library of medical images and more than 4,000 of articles about diseases, tests, symptoms, injuries, and surgeries. If you know what you’re looking for, the A.D.A.M. database is easy to browse. Also available: the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, drug and supplement information from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) via MedMaster, and Natural Standard. MedMaster provides extensive information about more than 1,000 brand name and generic prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including side effects, dosing, drug interactions, precautions, and storage for each drug. Natural Standard is an evidence-based, peer-reviewed collection of information on alternative treatments.
Emory MedWeb We like Emory University School of Law’s long-time commitment to the field of Internet research, so it seems natural that we would also like Emory University’s MedWeb. Click on “Subject Index” for an organized approach to medical research. Choose “statistics” from the long index, and you will be taken to a new page with links to 145 sites with statistical information. Click on “electronic publications” and you will find links to 2,758 relevant sites. Websites chosen for inclusion in MedWeb must meet standards for relevancy, currency, credibility, content, and design. So, almost 3,000 electronic publications met those standards. A search engine on the site allows you to narrow your results using words and phrases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The CDC provides a different approach than the other sites we’ve reviewed. From the home page, it’s just one click to access a treasure trove of health and safety topics, including workplace injuries, environmental health, and traveler’s health. The workplace section is a great source for lawyers. Client with carpal tunnel syndrome? The section on ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders is sure to help you. Also worthwhile: the data and statistics page. Some sections are definitely not for the squeamish, such as the Public Health Image Library (PHIL), which contains numerous medical photographs. ( Hypochondriac alert: better skip the parts on aircraft illness and death. We won’t even mention the avian flu section.)
The Merck Manuals Merck provides the content of the Merck Manuals on the Web for free. Registration is not required, and use is unlimited. The web publications are continuously updated to ensure that the information is as up-to-date as possible. There are several manuals available, but the Merck Manual - Home Edition and the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy have the broadest application for lawyers. The Merck Manual is actually available as a download for PDAs for Palm or Pocket PC operating systems. The cost is $49.95 annually, and new content is available bimonthly. For $51.95, Stedman's Medical Dictionary is also available for PDA.
National Health Information Center (NHIC) Provides a good keyword listing of resources, which links to numerous other websites.
QTVR Anatomical Resource The Wright State University School of Medicine Anatomy Department’s website using QuickTime VR format to showcase human bones and organs in amazingly real detail really blew our minds. Time will tell if the content grows enough to become useful on a large scale.
Findlaw Yes, Findlaw. Click on the tab for the Public and check out the sections on “Accidents & Injuries” and “Dangerous Products.” There are A-to-Z lists as well as recalls and safety alerts. While not as extensive as other sites we’ve reviewed, in your quest to leave no stone unturned (and no link unclicked upon), it may prove worthwhile.
Netterimages for medical illustrations and trial exhibits.
Expert Pages Don’t forget your expert medical witness!
No doubt about it: the amount of medical information it is possible to find online is staggering. It would be quite an undertaking to list all the websites that may be helpful to lawyers doing medical research. We hope the ones we’ve examined here will provide a good place to start your own diagnosis!
Jim Calloway is the director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He served as chair of the ABA TECHSHOW™ 2005. Calloway publishes the weblog, Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips, at http://jimcalloway.typepad.com, and was coauthor of the book, Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour. He serves on the GP|Solo Division Technology Board.
Courtney Kennaday has been the practice management advisor of the South Carolina Bar since 2002. Her PMAP (Practice Management Assistance Program) web pages are among the most visited on the SC Bar website and were recently ranked number five by the ABA in the top six best state bar resources in the country. One of her favorite things to do is to talk about law office technology.