It wasn’t too long ago I found a chasm of missing medical information for the studies providing fodder for next week’s headlines and health trends. If you want to get an idea of just how much is missing, you can check out the earlier article here on Missing Medical Data.
But just knowing that the data is unavailable doesn’t mean your diet-obsessed colleagues or internet-medic friends would actually find it. Search software is smart, but it’s also very fast. Searches are trying to give you what you’re asking for with a dose of locality and a knock toward profile favorites. Looking for “diabetes” won’t return “metabolic acidosis” in your top 5 or wiki summary unless you’ve been indexing medical dictionaries for the last year.
Health is complicated. Complicated topics have big words.
So how often are people searching for ‘big’ words in health anyway?
To find out, I stripped an old medical dictionary of all its vocab and randomly sampled 1000 words. Word ‘technicality’ or ‘difficulty’ is somewhat related to its length. With all this internet available, have people been using their power-packed thumbs to rip through ever more advanced terminology?
By multiplying a word’s trend score by word length, we can get a new space of information to look at.
Over time, word length x trending score seems to be increasing, albeit slowly. This is a good candidate for larger trend collection.
Interesting. What about the most technical at the top?
The 2014⁄2019 split looks similar. Ever go to the dentist? Apparently, people really want to know they won’t feel their next root canal. The Pterygomandibular space is the head and neck tissue on each side of the face. It’s studied carefully by dentists before applying anesthetic during an Inferior Alveolar Nerve Block.
‘Differentiated’ may not seem like a medical term at first glance, but in 2014 the BBC reported Japanese scientists achieved a major breakthrough in stem cell technology. Differentiating is the process of an embryonic stem cell becoming hear, lung, marrow, or other organ tissue. See the article here. Whether headlines may drive technical learning in the population is an interesting topic for future investigation.
Is there a relation between the highest-ranking technical terms and the most popular medical searches? Let’s see:
Cancer is one of humanities greatest enemies to long, healthy, lives. Carcinogenesis is the process of cancer formation. A reasonably complicated term that will lead home and library researchers to a wealth of information about how cancer gets hold in our bodies. Why the interest? Maybe it was the report out in 2014 that showed over 40 people contaminated with radiation after the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan. In 2019, radiation seems to have hit a high note -also closely linked to cancer, but encompasses a broad range of energy sources. Further investigation might show an evolution in search around cancer. Laurocerasus are fruit trees. Why are they in a medical dictionary? Well, papers and WebMD have recently been espousing tart cherry as a natural treatment for gout and inflammation. Prunes are a common remedy for an ailment associated with not eating enough fiber. Constipation, anyone?
This is powerful data.
For any amount of available information given in simple or technical terms, we can begin to ask if anyone would ever bother to find it. We also know whether we should take our bestie internet-doctor’s google fu as good advice or set an appointment to see the real thing. Probably a good idea to visit your doctor. This early data exploration is promising. The full data pull is underway. A dictionary of terms, API access code, and the visualization notebooks can all be found at on GitHub.