Information In Practice


BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 25 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:284
  1. Mark Pallen (m.pallen{at}

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    Medline on the web

    One of the best biomedical sites on the web has just got better. The United States National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Library of Medicine has for some time offered free access to a subset of Medline dealing with genetics as part of its Entrez series of interlinked databases ( Now the whole of Medline is available on the site through an experimental service, PubMed ( In PubMed retrieved citations are not only linked to related articles or sequences, as in the Entrez databases, but there is also a PreMedLine section, containing references to articles that have not yet made it into the official Medline database

    You can even include hypertext links in your own web documents to articles in PubMed (such as or, more powerfully still, call up a whole swathe of related articles in a single web address (try

    Kawasaki disease

    Following complaints on television that too many British doctors are ignorant of Kawasaki disease, the Royal College of General Practitioners has prepared a fact sheet (, which is available on the RCGP's excellent web site (

    Those keen to know more about the aetiology of the condition should consult an article by Nigel Curtis of St Mary's Medical School available on line on

    Support for families affected by the disease is available from the Kawasaki Families' Network ( The network can also be contacted by email on

    Government information on the web

    If you tend to misfile or throw away the paper versions of official government communications, don't despair–you can access government press releases on the Central Office of Information's web site ( Of particular relevance here are the Department of Health's press releases (

    The Department of Health itself has its own home page (, nested within the government information service ( On the DoH home page you will find a search facility plus links to DoH publications. Several mouse clicks down the line you will find the full text of (so far) only one government white paper on health (, published by the newly privatised successor to HMSO, the Stationery Office (

    Talking digital

    In his book Being Digital (see for a review) Nicholas Negroponte envisages a world where everyday devices are networked and have enough intelligence to talk to one another, so that the refrigerator can talk, say, to your car or to your toaster. Perhaps one day your electrocardiograph will be able to talk directly to the Cardiac Arrhythmia Advisory System (CAAS) at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center ( This expert system is able to interpret and advise on electrocardiograms over the web. According to its creators, its intended uses include decision support for rural and non-specialist practitioners and continuing medical education. Although still in demonstration mode, CAAS will accept interesting electrocardiograms for analysis in digital or in deadtree format

    In a similar vein to CAAS is Hepaxpert (, a program that will interpret serology results for hepatitis A and B over the web

    On a more technical level, communication between medical imaging devices will be made easier by the launch of a new standard for digital imaging and communications in medicine, termed DICOM 3 ( The new standard provides a detailed specification for formatting and exchanging images between imaging devices. For a tutorial on DICOM, particularly as DICOM 3 relates to cardiology, see

    E coli O157:H7 and meningococcal meningitis

    The closing months of 1996 were marked in Britain by outbreaks of E coli O157:H7 infection and meningococcal meningitis. The Public Health Laboratory Service has published online fact sheets about E coli O157:H7 on and about meningococcal disease on

    Further information on E coli as a pathogen is available from the E coli index at the University of Birmingham ( and from the American Food and Drug Administration's Bad Bug Book (

    Those keen to keep up to date with emerging infections worldwide should visit the home page of the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) on and or join the ProMED mailing list by sending an email with the message “subscribe promed [your email address]” to, leaving the subject line blank

    If you are not yet on line you can find help in getting connected in the ABC of Medical Computing (eds Nicholas Lee and Andrew Millman, BMJ Publishing), which has Mark Pallen's Guide to the Internet as a supplement.

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