Ads? Free Consultations? Where do you get your medical information?
Have you seen all the ads lately from healthcare providers? There are chiropractors advertising treatment for diabetes, autoimmune and thyroid disorders. There are ads for laser treatments for low back pain (FDA Cleared!). There are ads for osteoarthritis featuring “the latest non-surgical treatments”. Some come with “free consultations”; others offer “free gourmet meals”.
>One of my biggest frustrations as a physician is that when patients are hurting — from arthritis or from playing a sport or auto accident or from a work injury – they are susceptible to these kinds of sales pitches. As a result, patients can sometimes get unhelpful, inefficient, overpriced or just plain wrong treatment.
>While the newspapers and the internet can be great sources of information, it can be difficult for a layperson to sort out good information from bogus sales pitches. It is unlikely that you will get unbiased factual information at a free dinner. And frequently ads with the catchiest slogans or the sites with the best looking pages (or those that turn up on top of searches) are not best places to find the facts.
I have been trying to get information to my patients about what is appropriate treatment and what is not. And my web developer (webgoddess.net) and my SEO optimizer have done a great job at increasing my internet visibility and traffic. Look for more articles here about treatment of pain and musculoskeletal problems.
But where else can patients go to get unbiased medical information?
Here are a few suggestions.
Health.NIH.gov is the National Institutes for Health web page designed for patients. It has an alphabetical disease index – from Addison’s disease to Wegener’s granulomatosus. While not quite A to Z , it is a comprehensive source of reliable information on diseases and treatments.
NLM.GOV is the web site for the National Library of Medicine that is known for Medline. It is a wonderful resource for scientific information. You can find summaries of journal articles on individual studies. In many cases the full article is available. The information can be very technical and search terms are not always intuitive, but with a little practice (and using the tutorials) you can be researching and answering your own questions about diseases.
Cochrane.org is a website from an organization, the Cochrane Collaboration, which reviews and summarizes medical information using the best data available. Go to the clinical reviews section. This site lists the reviews by diagnoses, so getting the summary you need is very easy. The information in the summary though may seem a bit technical, as the reviews are not written for lay people. But don’t let that discourage you; it is worth struggling through some of the jargon to get at the answers you want.
Webmd.com is a site that is full of ads and content that is sponsored by drug companies. But is also full of good, basic information about disease states and is written for the general public. It also has handy tools like a pill identifier, doctor finder and symptom checker.
Whatever information you find, you should never base treatment decisions solely on the web-based information. Take what you learn back to your doctor and see if together you can develop a plan that is based on sound science and fits your personal preferences. It could be that a free gourmet meal and “the latest non-surgical treatment” for arthritis or “lasers for back pain” are not what you need.