Intermedic: On-Line Journal on Internet and Medicine
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Site of the Month


Medscape is one of the most important and visited medical sites in the World Wide Web (WWW). With more than 400,000 registered users and with a growth rate of 4,000 new users per week, it is well known worldwide, especially  in the USA, where it is said that 80% of the doctors with Internet access visit the site regularly. It is necessary to register before entering the site by answering a on-line form, but the process is free of charge, up to now.

The site's main objective is to disseminate medical scientific information through the Internet, working primarily in continuous medical education (CME) and medical literature. Its information services are divided into the following areas:

Specialties: this section groups information resources into 15 main areas: AIDS, cardiology, infectious diseases, health administration, medical practice, mental health, oncology, orthopedics, pediatrics, pharmacotherapy, primary care, pneumology, surgery, urology and ginecology/obstetrics.

News: this section lists daily short  medical news published by the specialized press.

Journals: this section allows access to 29 full-text medical journals, such as the American Heart Journal, Medical Tribune, Clinical Psychiatry News and many others, includig eight on-line journal produced by Medscape itself.

Patient Information: this section has many instructional texts and links to other medical sites, so that doctors can pass to their patients information about prevention, diagnosis and treatment in many medical areas.

Examination Room: one of the most interesting sessions, it contains, among other things, the Question of the Day, about some clinical problem, the PicTour, a presentation and solution of clinical cases (with images, clinical history and questions about diagnosis and treatment) and the Journal Club Forum, a presentation of important medical articles, with on-line discussion.

PicTour, a clinical case presentation with images, which the user must solve.

Library: contains diverse information for the doctor, such as "Clinical Pearls" (a pratical collection of tips), and  illustrated Medical Procedures and Clinical Orientations.

Services: this section has many resources for information location and browsingg, such as research articles, bibliographical search in MEDLINE, the Electronic Library (with 40,000 medical titles) and the Career Center (with job announcements in the medical and nursing areas).

Other Medscape sections increase to new heights the diversity and richness of information in the site, such as Book Reviews and Clinical Calculator. The former is a interesting page, containing several form-based programs which allow the calculation of clinical parameters in many specialties, in a interactive way. The user fills the input values, and, by clicking on a button, obtains immediately the answer, which is usually numerical. In the following example, the program calculates the probability of acute myocardial infarction of a patient, based on data about ST segment elevation and depression, in presence of  a left bundle block (LBBB).

On-line calculator for medical decision support calculations.

Another interesting section, called CME Center, lists all resources which grant CME (continous medical education) credits (a serious business in the USA), and also a a calendar of all programmed CME events.

Efficient Searches

One of the greatest attractions in Medscape site is the possibility of making searches by using keywords. The user can choose from many databases:


The search results are impressive. I liked particularly the enormous full-text article database, which permits a efficient and relevant search in a very short time. MedScape gives free access to the article's texts, which can be saved to your disk or printed immediately. The MEDLINE search section has promised to provide links to available on-line texts but this resource is still incipient. When it works, it will be a revolution in the access to medical information (see Bibliographical Research in the Internet, Intermedic, Issue 2).

Medscape has also on-line discussion forums about many themes, through email, with the participant's contributions displayed on-line. Although physicians suffer from a chronic lack of time, it is easy to predict that this form of electronic discussion will grow in the future, and will include support to medical care (such as the on-line discussion of difficult cases, for example), thus leading to a kind of "low-cost telemedicine".

Another good resource is MedPulse, a notification service by e-mail, which you can receive every week in your house with all Medscape news and site modifications.

Site Evaluation

The richness of information provided by Medscape, together with its free-of-charge access, allow us to say that this is simply one of the best sites in medical Internet. Site navigation is extremely easy and intuitive, working like a large and organized "message board", with resources for all requirements and personal tastes. Medscape has accomplished something which I find impossible in Brazil: they were able to convince authors to write a good number of high-quality papers to be offered exclusively on the Internet.

Obviously, someone has to pay for such an expensive service and the site survives from advertising from pharmaceutical companies and other Internet medical sites. Advertising is discrete and in good taste, and does not disturb the information flow and visualization, like in other medical sites which I have visited.

In conclusion, Medscape is an absolutely vital, high-quality resource, standing between the five best medical sites in Internet. By our evaluation, Medscape deserves a maximum grade.

Renato M.E. Sabbatini
Published on: 22.Feb.1998

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Published by: 
Nucleo de Informatica Biomedica UNICAMP  
Center for Biomedical Informatics 
State University of Campinas, Brazil  
© 1997 Renato M.E. Sabbatini 
Sponsored by: 
Searle do Brasil