Surely by now you have heard of Microsoft’s Bing search engine.  Microsoft has been heavily advertising Bing through TV commercials, content deals, and even offering cash back deals via major vendors such as Best Buy, Walmart, and others. A few days ago Microsoft announced an upgrade to its Bing Health experience that medical professionals should definitely take note of – it could change the current landscape of how medical content is accessed and shared with patients.

What makes Bing Health’s experience so valuable is they aggregate data, much like Wikipedia does, but only from legitimate medical sources.  Later in this article I’ll go through an example using sarcoidosis as the search term and compare it to Wikipedia and WebMD – then explain how the data can be used with patients.

Bing Health’s newest content partners include trusted medical sources: Harvard Health Publications, the CDC, and the Natural Standard.  Bing Health already uses content from the Mayo Clinic, and the National Institutes of Health’s MedlinePlus.  The search engine is also adding integration with social media, such as Twitter – but will only allow tweets from authoritative medical content providers, such as the National Psoriasis Foundation.

So lets go through a test search using Sarcoidosis and compare with WebMD and Wikipeda.

If you search Sarcoidosis with Bing, you get the following result:

If you click on the Sarcoidosis link, you get the following page (there is more information, but the following is a one page screen shot)

As you can see, Bing clearly tells you the source of the information.  The above content is from the Mayo Clinic, a trusted source of medical content.

Now lets compare the search result to WebMD:

And the search result to Wikipedia:

As you can see, WebMD does not yield  the same level of patient oriented content that Bing does when entering a simple search of sarcoidosis.  Plus, there is no ability to email out, or share with social media tools.  Wikipedia on the other hand, provides entirely too much information.  You would almost never want to show your patient a Wikipedia page of their pathology – it could easily confuse them and give them way too much information to digest.  Plus, with Wikipedia you can never trust the content 100 percent, and never want to use the information when advising patients or for patient care.

With that said, Wikipedia is a great tool for medical research.  We’ve highlighted before how it’s fantastic for looking up research studies.  Bing Health even provides a tab where you can look up the same content in Wikipedia – but again, the utility of Bing Health is you are able to avoid sources that are not 100% verified – so don’t use the Wikipedia tab.

How can health care providers use Bing Health for patients?

Bing Health’s new search focus now allows health care providers to have access to vast databases of medical content made for patients, all aggregated into one medium, and most importantly, derived from trusted sources.

Providers can use Bing Health to share information with patients.  The e-mail out functionality is key for this, or you could even print the information in your office and hand it to you patient on their way out.

This one click access to trusted data is key for providers who are short on time, don’t want to read through a full Wikipedia entry to make sure the information is legitimate, or feel the content could overwhelm a patient.  Providing this type of content to patients is a proactive way of dealing with the flood of medical data available on the web – and lets them know you aren’t afraid of the web either

You can even use Bing Health for patient information when prescribing new medications, such as a statin.  Below is a sample screen shot that appears when you search for Levostatin:

When you click through the link, you are still within Bing Health, but you see the full Gold Standard article, again, a trusted source of medical content.

However, there are definitely some improvements that could be made with Bing health. Two things we want to see are more images, and an integration with the Bing iPhone app. If you provide e-mail service to your patients, it would be great to have the ability to use the iPhone app to look up a pathology or medication, and then e-mail out the information while talking to the patient.

As Bing adds more trusted medical content providers its utility will only grow. But as it is, medical providers should definitely take notice, and consider using the search engine’s Health section when educating patients.