In August, Google launched Google Health OneBox (left). This puts the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus right at the top of the search results, and is potentially a valuable new source of traffic for NLM.

There are factors, however, that work against MLP — The three prominent links on the left, which are likely to get the bulk of OneBox clicks (Asthma, Google Health, & thumbnail) go to the Google Health Topics page (below). This has the same text and pictures as the MLP Encyclopedia/ADAM page that’s linked from the OneBox Medline Plus link. But there’s an important difference — The Google Health version of ADAM has Symptoms as the first section after Overview. The MLP version of ADAM, on the other hand (see further down on this page) has Causes as the first section. …

This may seem to be a minor difference. But I’ve learned — through long experience with Hardin MD and brief experience with the short-lived Medical Library Association-Google Health Coop project — that symptoms are a very popular, heavily searched topic for users (which Google certainly knows!). So I suspect that users who try out the Google Health and Medline Plus OneBox links will quickly learn to prefer Google Health because it features the symptoms information they’re looking for. It IS a positive for NLM that the Google Health page has a prominent link to MLP. But it’s rather surprising that there’s no clear credit given to ADAM as the original provider of the information — ADAM is credited only at the bottom of the page, where few users will see it (and I suspect many will consider it copyright-free, since they’ll presume that it’s from a government site.)

MedlinePlus & Google Health OneBox — How NLM can boost traffic

Change the order of sections on ADAM Encyclopedia pages, to put Symptoms at the top, as Google does. This would make the pages more interesting to most users.

Surprisingly, MLP Encyclopedia pages, which is what Google OneBox links to, have no links to equivalent MLP Health Topic pages (Example: there is no link between the Asthma pages in the Encyclopedia and in Health Topics) — After all, it’s the MLP Health Topic pages that NLM staff creates and maintains, so how about making links to them from Encyclopedia pages, so the surging clickers from Google OneBox can find them!

See follow-up article: MedlinePlus Needs a New Name

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

5 thoughts on “MedlinePlus & Google Health OneBox

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Seeing the picture » Blog Archive » MedlinePlus & Google Health OneBox [] on

  2. While I agree the Google One box could be a great improvement, there are still several issues with Google Health that have yet to be fixed. Check out my post on the Surprising Facts of Google Health:

    I had hoped Google would correct these issues but they have not. Look for a new post about the continuing issues with Google Health on my blog soon.

    Great ideas, and I agree with the symptoms being listed first; however, I also agree that Google needs to make it clear the information & especially the images are copyrighted. Plus they need to make some changes as I state in my blog post.

    Thanks for the great post!
    Twitter: Alisha764

  3. Pingback: Seeing the picture » Blog Archive » MedlinePlus Needs a New Name

  4. I didn’t even know Google Health existed. Thanks for addressing this. I agree that symptoms are what folks will be looking for. That’s what I look for!

  5. I would find it highly valuable to see a diagnostic cross reference. For example, I may have the symptoms of gouty arthritis, but I may actually have osteoarthritis. It is important to avoid channeling a person’s research down a path that sounds correct, but is, in fact, incorrect. Making the reader aware of alternative causes of symptoms is a minimum requirement for dispensing useful medical information.

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