William Mac Beckner and Brian M. Berman Churchill Livingstone, 2003 Paperback with CD, 186 pages, £20.99
(Reviewed by Trina Ward, EJOM Vol. 4 No. 6)
This book, which comes with a PDF version on CD from which websites can be directly accessed (note this cannot be loaded to a computer but must be run from the disc), starts with a potted history of the internet, reminding us of how very recent the entire phenomenon is. Following definitions of complementary medicine and statistics showing why it is used, which rely heavily on information from the National Institute of Health, chapter one touches on how the internet is changing the face of medicine, with it being used more often for seeking medical information than shopping.
Chapter two aims to help us sieve through the enormous quantity of information through considering how to clarify questions and using the appropriate tools – introducing search engines, directory search tools and metasearches. How to refine searches using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and other such tricks as the all encompassing asterisk* which should immediately make an impact on your searches. A few of the major search engines are compared which is helpful in choosing the most appropriate one for your needs. This chapter could have been improved by defining internet terms that appear elsewhere in the book such as portals, directories etc, and by providing an outline of the range of biomedical information available; for example, mailing lists, non bibliographical databases and books on the net are not mentioned. Although there is an appendix of terms many are omitted.
The third chapter explains how to develop a strategy to find biomedical literature for CAM information. It lists databases that are specific to CAM, with useful summaries, although the authors present two tables of such resources when a combined one would have prevented duplication. More detailed explanations of PubMed are given – that is the database of the National Library of Medicine that is free to access; mention is also made of the Cochrane library and of OVID, an evidence based medicine collection.
Chapter four looks at how to evaluate Internet resources in CAM, which would have made more sense placed at the beginning of the book. Also, examples for each of its useful guidelines in evaluating resources would have linked this chapter to the rest of the book.
CAMs are looked at individually in chapter five, after an introductory paragraph on acupuncture, that reflects the classification of CAM used earlier, which separates out energy therapies from body-based ones etc. It shows pages from the Cochrane collaboration, Bandolier, and BioMed central websites and lists books, journals, and professional organisations. However, the acupuncture section does not list Internet resources specific to acupuncture; this may be an oversight as these are listed for other therapies such as herbal medicine, etc. The classification of CAM into non-overlapping categories is reflected in chapter six, entitled ‘Complementary therapies of the body mind and spirit’, in which acupuncture is not included.
Chapter seven profiles websites that provide the best available evidence and information for healthcare professionals divided into government (US) sites, safety sites, research resources, academic organisations, sites for healthcare workers, lists of journals and newsletters. It seems to lose track of the aim of the book here and provides book lists.
Health consumer information is looked at in the next chapter, covering government (US) resources, CAM directories, topical and news sites and newsletters. The information is similar to that given in previous chapters.
The chapter on legal, ethical and privacy issues is clearly aimed at health practitioners, referring to CAM practitioners or products rather than for CAM practitioners; though, of course, there is an overlap, and many of these issues need to be considered by all.
Chapter ten is titled ‘The Future’, which outlines a vision of increasing internet use and the challenges this holds - as in standardising CAM terminology, improving quality of health information and collaboration in providing research information. There is also an appendix describing the Cochrane collaboration and one giving details of courses on CAM.
This is a very useful addition to the current literature and could inspire those who are not fans of computers to go out and get one, as it outlines the enormous amount of information that is available at a click of the mouse. However, who it is pitched at is a little unclear. Although it lists health professionals as one of the intended readers, I doubt that CAM practitioners are actually included in this group, and for Internet novices it does not go back to basics with clarity. A searching the web workbook would have been a useful additional chapter. Overall I would have liked it to explain principles and strategies of searching to find information, more than listing those useful sites, so that beginners could gain a clearer overall picture of how to search for what and where. By reading carefully there is an enormous amount of helpful advice, but some is buried and does not jump out at you. Although I do recommend using this book and its companion CD, from which you can directly access sites mentioned by hypertext links, there is still a place for a similar book that is more logically ordered for ease of learning, and at the same time covers a much wider scope.
Trina Ward Trina Ward is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, who trained in China and Australia. She works in the NHS and in private practice, and is an assistant at the Acupuncture Research Resource Centre. She has an MPhil in toxicity of Chinese herbs and her interests are in research.