Anamneses-Based Internet Information Supply: Can a Combination of an Expert System and Meta-Search Engine Help Consumers find the Health Information they Require?

Wilfried Honekamp*, Herwig Ostermann
University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology (UMIT) Tyrol, Austria

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© Honekamp and Ostermann; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology (UMIT), Eduard Wallnöfer-Zentrum 1, A-6060 Hall in Tyrol, Austria; Tel: +49 9503 504264; Fax: +43 50 86486 73001; E-mail:


An increasing number of people search for health information online. During the last 10 years various researchers have determined the requirements for an ideal consumer health information system. The aim of this study was to figure out, whether medical laymen can find a more accurate diagnosis for a given anamnesis via the developed prototype health information system than via ordinary internet search.

In a randomized controlled trial, the prototype information system was evaluated by the assessment of two sample cases. Participants had to determine the diagnosis of a patient with a headache via information found searching the web. A patient’s history sheet and a computer with internet access were provided to the participants and they were guided through the study by an especially designed study website. The intervention group used the prototype information system; the control group used common search engines and portals. The numbers of correct diagnoses in each group were compared.

A total of 140 (60/80) participants took part in two study sections. In the first case, which determined a common diagnosis, both groups did equally well. In the second section, which determined a less common and more complex case, the intervention group did significantly better (P=0.031) due to the tailored information supply.

Using medical expert systems in combination with a portal searching meta-search engine represents a feasible strategy to provide reliable patient-tailored information and can ultimately contribute to patient safety with respect to information found via the internet.

Keywords: Information supply, internet, expert system, meta-search, tailoring, headaches.