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Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

NICE and easy—a FAST way to find reliable clinical information on the web

NICE and easy—a FAST way to find reliable clinical information on the web

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imageIt is well known that consumers turn to the Internet when searching for health information.  It is also understood that the accuracy, quality and reliability of medical information found on the web is uneven at best.   So imagine the concerns that arise when physicians search the web for information they need.  How do we make certain that the information physicians are getting is up to date and highly qualified?

That was the issue confronting experts at what is perhaps the largest physician network in the world—the doctors and other clinicians of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.  There, a special agency known as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence or NICE exists to provide clinical guidance and help establish healthcare quality standards in the UK.  And to help professionals find up to date information, NICE has developed an Internet portal using Microsoft FAST search technology.  They have established a single access point to more than 250 core information sources.

Developers for the portal now known as NHS Evidence say that the challenges were daunting.  There are hundreds of possible information sources all using different data structures, metadata tagging schemes and organizational taxonomies.  A typical search of a medical term on the web might return millions of results when using Bing or Google.  That isn’t of much help to busy clinicians.  Developers wanted NHS evidence to be as simple to use as any other search engine while returning only the most appropriate and relevant results. 

imageNICE enlisted the help of a London-based Microsoft partner called Mongoose IT.  Developers selected Microsoft Office SharePoint Server and FAST search technology in combination with Microsoft ASP.NET as its development platform.  Not only did this provide market leading performance, but it also was one one of the least expensive options available.

The portal launched on time and on budget in April of 2009.  It can access of main store of 90 information sources and also contains a separate set of specialist collections and a separate bibliographic database search service.  Filters can refine search results according to areas of clinical interest, document type and other categories.  According to Andrew Fenton, Chief Information Officer forimage NHS Evidence at NICE, not only has FAST been exactly what was expected and needed, it is highly scalable and highly configurable making it an ideal platform for ongoing growth.

This week on Microsoft Health Tech Today, Andrew Fenton will be my special guest.  On the program he’ll tell us more about the NHS Evidence portal, what it means to clinicians and how it contributes to safer, higher quality patient care.  You can watch a promo for our program below.  Then, on Tuesday, January 18th, at 9 AM Pacific be sure to drop by the Health Tech Today landing page to watch this special program. 

FAST Search at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) at the NHS

We have also prepared a written case study on the NHS Evidence Portal.  If you are charged with building and maintaining web information resources for a large hospital or clinic network, it is definitely worth a read.

Remember to join us each Tuesday for a new episode of Microsoft Health Tech Today—the only on-line, on-demand video series at the intersection of health and information technology,

Bill Crounse, MD                Senior Director, Worldwide Health           Microsoft

  • I tried a few queries on the portal and it seems to work pretty well.   In the case study, t would be nice to see the breakdown of how the money was spent as well as other technology alternatives were considered.

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