Schueler's Home Medical Advisor. (software package) (Evaluation)
by Steven Anzovin
Schueler's Home Medical Advisor (HMA) claims to "send your computerk to medical school." This program contains an up-to-date, encyclopedic database of information on common symptoms, diseases, injuries, drugs and poisons, and medical tests, with each category of information in its own module. By far the most interesting and useful capability of HMA is its medical expert system. Choose a general symptom like back pain, and the program will ask you a series of questions that lead to a specific diagnosis. Did you merely strain your back, or is it a kidney stone? (The program warns you six ways to Sunday that it isn't meant to replace the services of a real physician.)
HMA is a valuable program, but it has a few rough edges. Sometimes the information isn't organized in the most logical way. For example, the article on AIDS begins with a lengthy discussion of how many people have AIDS or are at risk of contracting the disease and only then gives a definition of the term.
The interface is attractive but a bit awkward. You must scroll through long lists of keywords to find the information you need. (Pixel Perfect is working hard to improve this product, including implementing a way to search directly for text typed into a string gadget.) And HMA is copy-protected, which is a mistake. You have to hunt for a manual, find a word, and type it in before getting any information. Of course, I don't like spending an hour in my doctor's waiting room, either.
Overall, Schueler's Home Medical Advisor is a good first crack at what in the future will likely be an important class of PC software--that is, expect systems that emulate doctors, lawyers, and other professionals.