What’s new in Medline Plus?

MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov), the authoritative online consumer health resource from the National Library of Medicine, has many great new features to help you locate appropriate materials that meet the unique needs of your community. The site, which debuted in 1998 with 22 health topics, now boasts over 800 topics and many new enhancements:

Enhanced Searching

MedlinePlus has new search capabilities to improve your searches. Results now have relevancy rankings and are sorted into two subsets: collections and clusters. “Collections” help you narrow your search by displaying results in 7 content areas. “Clusters” organize your search results into groups based on the most frequent words in the top 200 results.  The “remix” button displays the next cluster. You can target your search with phrase searching and Boolean logic.  “AND” is the default operator, for everything else use OR, NOT, -, +, and the wildcard *. MedlinePlus was designed to be user friendly, providing a variety of search mechanisms to meet different search styles. Many elements are repeated throughout the site helping users learn to search quickly.

SEARCH TIP: Do you want to know what the hot topics are in MedlinePlus? Just click on the Search Cloud link on the lower right sidebar from the homepage—this displays the top 100 search terms entered into the MedlinePlus search box. The cloud is updated every weekday, with results appearing in alphabetical order and the larger the text size, the more often the term has been searched. Place your cursor over the search term to find out the exact ranking.

Multiple Language Resources

It’s easy to find Spanish language materials with the convenient español toggle tab.  This tab is located on the upper right side of every page. MedlinePlus is a robust site in English and Spanish, but did you know it also has consumer health information in 47 other languages?  Just click on the lower left sidebar from the MedlinePlus homepage and explore. You can search by health topic, or by a specific language.

SEARCH TIP: Not finding the Spanish language information you need?  Start your search in English and click on the first result, which should be the health topic. Toggle to the español site and view the Spanish term for your English-generated search. For example, searching “heart attack” in the Spanish site will yield non-relevant results. By starting the search in English and toggling to Spanish, you will learn the term in Spanish is “ataque al corazón.” Performing the search with these terms in the español site will yield numerous relevant results.

Health Literacy Materials

Literacy is the ability to read and write. Health literacy is the ability to obtain, understand and act on verbal or written health information. Low literacy and low health literacy often go hand in hand, but don’t be fooled by someone’s outward appearance or perceived educational level. It is still possible to be highly educated and have low health literacy. MedlinePlus has useful materials for users who need easier reading level materials—these are marked with an Easy to Read notation. The interactive tutorials are designed for all consumers regardless of their education level, ability, or familiarity with computers. Physicians, nurses and healthcare providers practicing in the United States write the content. The modules do not have advertising, nor do they contain information that might bias the patient’s decision-making process. It is designed for 6th grade readability and can be located from the upper right sidebar from the MedlinePlus homepage. Search the medical encyclopedia and toggle to the español site for images with Spanish content. There are even a few surgery videos available in Spanish.

SEARCH TIP:  A quick way to find all the health literacy materials is from the main health topics page. Click on Health Topics, and then look for the colored bard in the lower right corner of the page.

For more information contact:  John Bramble  jbramble@lib.med.utah.edu

800-338-7657 (option 1, 2, then 6) / 801-585-5743 (office direct)