Tuesday, March 15, 2016

MedNexus - A Search Engine for Patients

I was recently introduced to MedNexus, a new medical search engine, and asked to share my thoughts and opinions about the website.* Though MedNexus was originally launched as a search engine for doctors, the co-founders quickly realized that patients also need and want access to information about their own medical conditions. We all know that just typing our conditions or symptoms into Google doesn’t always lead to the most reliable information – so the idea behind MedNexus is to provide only quality search results from reliable sources.

When I visited MedNexus for the first time, I started by searching for information about rheumatoid arthritis. I was quite impressed when I had barely typed “rhe” and several useful topic suggestions were presented to me:

-       What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
-       How Do You Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis?
-       How Do You Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
-       What Are Lifestyle Tips For Rheumatoid Arthritis?
-       What Are Risk Factors For Rheumatoid Arthritis?

This seemed like a good start to me, so I clicked on “What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?” to see what kind of information would be presented.

The next page had a variety of great information. In the left sidebar was a brief answer to the question under the heading “Explained.” I found the general information in this column to be accurate and a good, brief overview of what RA is. My only complaint is that I would have liked to know the source for this information and the statistics it included. I assume this summary information was provided directly by MedNexus, but that wasn’t exactly made clear. However, it is important to note that MedNexus is still in Beta, so their platform is still a work in progress - so perhaps this is an issue that will be updated in future versions.

The rest of the search results were divided into several categories: Health Topics, Published Research, Ongoing Clinical Trials, and Discussion Forums. Under Health Topics there were 102 results, which all seemed to be from highly reliable sources like the Arthritis Foundation and the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. I thought it was great to have access to resources that had already been curated and deemed to be reliable. I also loved that the search provided a separate section with links to published scientific research. While I may not always be looking for this type of detailed information, it’s great to have a resource for finding such studies when I am. I also think that access to information about ongoing clinical trials and discussion forums could potentially be quite useful to patients.

Next I took a look at the information MedNexus had to offer on Rituxan (rituximab), the biologic medication I am currently using to treat my RA. Although there were fewer search results on this subject, the results that were presented seemed to be accurate and from reliable sources. 

Lastly, you all know that I am always looking for improved/increased resources on chronic illness and motherhood, particularly when it comes to treatment options that are safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. So of course the last thing I did was to search for “rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy” and “rheumatoid arthritis and breastfeeding.” The pregnancy search brought up a couple of published studies and a variety of natural treatment suggestions, none of which I found particularly helpful, unfortunately. The breastfeeding search brought up almost no results at all. Hopefully this is something that can also be improved in future versions of the site - perhaps by linking to resources such as the InfantRisk Center and Mother to Baby. Because I know for a fact that there are a lot of moms and moms-to-be out there who would really benefit from a reliable place to learn about pregnancy-safe and breastfeeding-safe treatment options for their conditions!

As I mentioned above, MedNexus is still currently in Beta – and the developers are always looking for constructive feedback to improve the experience. So if you decide to check it out, please consider taking this short survey to provide feedback and improve the site!

*I was compensated for the time I spent, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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