One of the most common criticism of the World Wide Web is that much of the information published on it is ephemeral. However, ephemeral isn't always a bad thing; the World Wide Web has become the ideal place to keep abreast of breaking news stories. The recent General Election on the UK, for example, was the first to really use the World Wide Web as a tool for disseminating campaign information and keeping up to date with analysis and the latest polls, as well as for discussion and publishing electronic manifestos.
In general, large news corporations have really arrived on the Web now, some appearing considerably behind others (ABC having just launched is ABCNews site, for instance). Not all of these sites are geared up to help users searching for information on medical or health topics. The rest of this article highlights the sites that are offering services to this sector and looks at some alternative ways of catching up with the news.
Full marks go to ReutersHealth for this excellent service. Approximately ten key stories are highlighted every day and information for the professional is clearly separated from information aimed at health consumers. The archive is searchable so access to any stories from the last few months is easily obtained, and searches may be narrowed to a variety of categories (ethics, pharmaceutical, etc.). Reuters have also called on the service of some eminent physicians to compile case reports for their "Clinical Challenge" feature.
CNN also offer a specialised health section, this time as part of their general news service "CNN Interactive" . The style is inevitably more popular, but there is still a separate section aimed at the consumer, including patient advice from CNN's Better Health Network and a health and fitness magazine (part of "CNN Plus" ). If you have access to CNN television channels, health related programmes are listed here. CNN's search engine searches the whole site, unfortunately with no opportunity to limit to stories in the health section.
ABC News 
A late arrival, ABC News has some way to go before it challenges the established Reuters and CNN services to the health community. Lumping health into a broad Sci/Tech section doesn't help, and the search feature is not up and running yet.
Medscape News 
Medscape is a high profile web service offering a variety of publishing services to the medical professions. Their news service is based firmly around a newsfeed from Reuters and press releases from the major U.S. health organisations such as the FDA and the National Institutes of Health, and excepts from MMWR.
Firmly aimed at health professionals, this service offers partial access to news items from a series of weekly newsletters published by CW Henderson. Access to back issues is on a subscription basis, so it is not possible to search the archive, but there are other useful features, such as a subject based events listing which covers some European conferences as well as U.S. meetings.
The Times 
Although not offering special access to medicine a health specifically, the Times does allow you to set up a profile of your interests. This is a simple process, involving choosing which sections of the paper you wish your information to be in and specifying some appropriate keywords.
The Telegraph 
Consumer health appears in the Health section of etcetera (the Telegraph's online magazine) and there is also a Science section which occasionally contains items on research, again aimed at the lay person. The Electronic Telegraphs search engine searches the whole archive, but has a nifty feature allowing users to locate similar articles once they have found one of interest.