This is Patricia L. Hale’s (MD, PhD) submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:
I’m Patricia L. Hale MD, PhD. After over 15 years of medical practice, I have found that more and more of my patients rely on the Internet for useful health information. The web can be a wonderful resource and most clinicians now use it regularly as well. Statistics show that web searches for health information s are one of the top searches by volume and most Internet users will use the web to search for health information at one time or another. Unfortunately there is a great deal of false and inaccurate or dated information on the web. There are schemes to sell products that are often a harmless waste of money but occasionally can be dangerous. So please avoid clicking on advertisements on web sites and go to one of the reputable sites listed below.
The following are my top 5 safe web sites containing the best tools and resources for health related information:
- Medline Plus – Specifically designed for the public by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, this site has a tremendous amount of detailed information on a variety of health topics. There is information on over 750 conditions, diseases and wellness recommendations. Information on drugs and supplements along with the latest medical news and available clinical trials is also included. There are over 165 interactive tutorials and actual videos of many common surgical procedures (for the very curious). There are links to a number of highly respected medical organizations, patient support groups and medical centers that include local resources. Podcasts are also available addressing many common medical issues. The information is available in over 40 languages and continually updated. Overall this is my top recommendation as a great place to start any search for health information.
- Mayo Clinic – This site has been voted as one of the top sites for health information on almost every list in the past five years or more. It remains a leader in providing high quality, well researched health information to the public. There are tutorials, reference materials and links on a multitude of health topics. The site also includes the opportunity to ask questions of Mayo Clinic’s world renowned clinicians. There are podcasts as well as an excellent free weekly e-newsletter.
- Center for Disease Control (CDC) – You may think the CDC is only interested in disease outbreaks but they also have an excellent site for the public. This web site containing useful health information that is easy to search and includes a broad range of topics. This is the best site for information on air pollution and home contaminants such as radon or mold. One of the more unique features is the inclusion of links to data and statistics from around the United States allowing you to see what health issues you may have a higher risk for due to where you live. The site is available in multiple languages and includes podcasts, email updates and other features.
- Merck Source – This site contains one of the most complete sets of free access to reference materials for health topics on the web. It also has a companion site available free to clinicians that carefully matches information to what is on the public site geared for patients. There are links to a number of top medical center resources including the Harvard Health E-Newsletter. A unique feature is free access to the A.D.A.M. Symptom Navigator which is an interactive tool that is actually fun as well as educational. Although the site is supported by a pharmaceutical company, there is no advertising and the site is carefully balanced to provide high quality and unbiased medical information.
- U.S. Dept. of State Tips for Traveling Abroad – If you are planning on international travel this site is for you. It contains information on what immunizations may be required as well as very useful health and safety information for travel. You can also register your travel plans so you can be contacted if there is a family emergency in the U.S. or a crisis where you are traveling. The check list for what to do to prepare for your trip is also very helpful.
That’s it! Those are my top five sites. There are many other useful health resources on the web but it is very important to be sure they are run by reputable medical authorities and contain accurate and safe information. If you are going to use a general search engine to look for health information you should stick to Google as they actually have a medical director who is helping to continually modify their search algorithms to move safe and accurate health related results to the top. One of the best ways you can be further reassured that the web site you are exploring is safe is to look for the Health on The Net Foundation (HON) seal of approval. HON has strict criteria for approval of health related web sites and checks regularly to be sure their rules are followed. You can click on the seal and get the latest information on the status of the web site or go to the HON web site for a general search of participating sites. HON requires that every web site include the medical background and qualifications of those who provide the information on the web site and also when the web site was last updated.
I hope this list is helpful and you have a wonderful and safe holiday season! Remember to always look for HONcode accredited web sites.