Different search engines generate a wide range of results for certain health care-related searches, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, American Medical News reports (Lewis Dolan, American Medical News, 6/4).
For the study, researchers from the University of Missouri evaluated four search engines -- Ask.com, Bing, Google and Yahoo! -- on their usability for obtaining certain medical information.
Researchers asked volunteers to search for information on breast cancer and compared the results that the different search engines generated (Durben Hirsch, FierceHealthIT, 5/17). They then grouped the search results into four categories, based on whether the websites were:
- For the general population;
- For researchers and professionals;
- From not-for-profit organizations; or
- From corporations (American Medical News, 6/4).
Researchers found that:
- Bing received the highest scores for the usefulness of its search results; and
- Google had the best "search validity," or the highest percentage of websites that could be opened (FierceHealthIT, 5/17).
The study also found that search results from:
- Ask.com primarily included websites from not-for-profit organizations;
- Bing primarily included websites for the general population and those for professionals and researchers;
- Google primarily included websites for the general population and those from not-for-profit organizations; and
- Yahoo! primarily included websites for the general population.
Corporate websites were the least common search result from all four search engines.
According to the researchers, the findings indicate that each search engine has its own method for deciding which sites are shown and how they are ranked.
Doug Xu -- professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Missouri -- said he was surprised to see significant differences among the results generated by each site (American Medical News, 6/4).
The authors wrote, "We suggest that search engine users explore multiple search engines to search different types of health information and medical knowledge for their own needs and get a professional consultation if necessary" (FierceHealthIT, 5/17).