HealthBase--medical search engines maturing

NetBase's HealthBase, unveiled this week, is to medicine what is to travel--the mother search engine of not just content, but other search engines.

Content intelligence searches entire sentences, not just key words, for meaning. NetBase

It all started with Content Intelligence--focusing on understanding the actual meanings of sentences independent of grammar, lexicon, etc., and creating structured semantic indexes from massive volumes of content to power search experiences.

It wasn't until after the Mountain View, Calif.-based NetBase Solutions developed its content intelligence platform that the company decided to test it out in the world of medicine. Their just-unveiled HealthBase is to medicine what is to travel--the mother search engine of not just content, but other search engines.

Culling through 10 million health articles and sorting search results on two types of data, "conditions" and "treatments," into manageable subsets, HealthBase includes "causes of," "treatments for," "complications of," and "pros and cons of treatment." Content sources are also provided and ranked. And Jens Tellefsen vice president of marketing and product strategy, said it might include user collaboration akin to Digg's voting articles up or down in the near future.

The search engine has some kinks to work out--when I tried to research garlic, HealthBase treated it not merely as a treatment but also as a complication, showing "causes of garlic" and "treatments for garlic."

HealthBase seems to have a few kinks to work out, like treating the search term garlic as a condition instead of treatment. Screenshot by Elizabeth Armstrong Moore/CNET

But Tellefsen acknowledged by telephone Tuesday that I am not, as a layperson, the target market:

"We see a lot of applications, but this is really a showcase of what is possible to do with our technology. We picked health because it is such an incredible information-overload space; 8 million people per day use the Internet to search on health information. It's something that is very important for people.... But our end customers today are really health publishers and portal providers we'd like to provide information to."

NetBase already boasts several Fortune 500 clients, not to mention the federal government. Having built HealthBase in just two weeks (which is somewhat self-evident), and with plans to quadruple the amount of information it mines, I see tremendous potential here. It already has an edge on Google, although for how long remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, anyone looking for additional information after a doctor's visit, or perhaps in lieu of one (who really wants to see the doc about erectile dysfunction, as Tellefsen points out), HealthBase is your oyster--a search term, by the way, that is neither a condition nor a treatment, at least as of yet.

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