Sunil J. Ghelani, MD, Neha S. Kwatra, MD, Terry Kind, MD, MPH, Mary C. Ottolini, MD, MPH, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC
Background: Google accounts for over 90% searches on the internet and medical professionals are known to utilize it widely. A number of studies report that information available on the web is not always relevant or reliable. A free service called Google Custom Search(CSE) allows users to design a search engine that yields results tailored to their area of interest. Objectives: To create a search engine that generates results more relevant to medical students, residents and educators in the field of pediatrics and to test its usability. Methods: We populated a list of about one hundred websites relevant to pediatrics based on our clinical experience. Using CSE we designed an engine called 'searchpeds.com' that searches these websites. We then asked 25 third year medical students rotating on their core pediatrics clerkship at Children’s National to try this search engine and complete an anonymous online survey on its usability. Results: Twenty of 25 students responded to the usability survey (80%). On a scale of 1-5, students found the search useful(mean score=4.6), relevant(4.7), refinements easy to understand and use(4.85), and worthy of recommendation to colleagues(4.95). We created refinements(filters) which enabled users to categorize results based on organ system, file types(e.g. presentations or pdfs), specific online textbooks, lab diagnosis, radiology or drug information. In addition we created options to search the journal Pediatrics, PubMed, Google Scholar or to revert back to a non-customized Google search with a single click from our results page. Students suggested including certain websites which are currently excluded as they require paid subscription. Discussion: Searchpeds.com is a powerful tool that can be used to generate results specific to pediatrics from the ever expanding world wide web. The list of websites and refinements will need to be continuously updated. We could design engines specific to different institutes incorporating their paid subscriptions in addition to the current list of websites. Our pilot survey of medical students is encouraging, however a formal comparative study of the usefulness of results from this search engine compared to Google is the logical next step.