Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Staff infections': Where to turn for online information?

Last week a three part investigative journalism series (1, 2, and 3) was published by the Seattle Times about methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. This details how they did it when "state and federal governments don't bother to count MRSA cases." The Department of Health in Washington announced that they would begin tracking the incidence of MRSA in hospitals here as a result of the series.

S. aureus
is also known as 'staph', so patients can have either a nasty MRSA infection or a regular old 'staph infection.' I always question how much time clinical staff are being able to spend with their patients to make sure they understand a diagnosis when they email family & friends about their 'staff infections'. I've seen this happen with enough frequency to suspect it isn't a fluke, so I decided to do a little research of my own along these lines.

It absolutely kills me as a medical librarian to admit that Google is on the ball with this common mishap, look what happens when you search for 'staff infection' there:

Google 'knows' you mean staph infection and redirects you accordingly in a fairly straightforward way.

Does consumer health gold standard MedlinePlus? Unfortunately, no. The 6th search result makes the connection only as a pronunciation key:

"... infection that is usually caused by staph (pronounced: staff ) bacteria. What Is a Staph Infection? Staph is the shortened name..." All the other search results on the front page talk about medical staff preventative measures.

WebMD? Their advertisers are but not their resources. All three Yahoo ads mention Staph Infections before a Hepatitis B resource, a video where staph infections are mentioned as a possible tattoo side effect (listed twice in a row), then a MRSA-titled resource that doesn't mention staph or staff but does mention infection in the preview.

One .gov that gets the 'staff infection' search right? Healthfinder.gov! Check it out:

Healthfinder is also making the staff and infection connection but at least pulling a Staph Infection article to the top of the resource list. We know that the Health News article to the right about MRSA screening for health workers would be of interest but someone searching for a 'staff infection' may not.

Google Flu Trends is helping to identify search patterns for that particular topic, what do the data look like for 'staff infection' in addition to MRSA & staph infection?

There is additional subregion data that gives some clues about health literacy needs in certain areas.. but is anyone else thinking and monitoring along these lines?


Andrew said...

Your posting made me think of this article I read on Yahoo sports:
where a former MLB player discusses staph infections and its effects in the sports world. Doesn't really offer much in way of information, but I found it to be a good intro into some of the cautions, particularly for HS/College athletes.