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Links from "Decoding Your Health" from The New York Times

My online health goalsImage by Ethan Bloch via Flickr
The New York Times recently published a special section on "Decoding your Health" focusing on health resources online. The following are selected links from this section as well as other recent health-related articles.

You’re Sick. Now What? Knowledge Is Power.
Whether you are trying to make sense of the latest health news or you have a diagnosis of a serious illness, the basic rules of health research are the same. From interviews with doctors and patients, here are the most important steps to take in a search for medical answers.
How to Find the Right Doctor
Most people wouldn’t buy a new car without checking consumer ratings, but they still rely largely on word of mouth to select a physician. Yet with more patients having to choose from a health plan’s list, there is growing demand for information that is more reliable than a friend’s recommendation and goes beyond the rudimentary details available online: a doctor’s hours, educational background and ZIP code.
Taking Time for Empathy
I would like to believe that I am a compassionate doctor. But when I must convey bad news to a patient, one of the first things I worry about is time.
The Number of Primary Care Doctors Is Declining
Does your doctor spend time talking to you? Do you see your doctor within 20 minutes of your appointment time? Are you getting the guidance you need to cope with a continuing health problem or multiple overlapping problems? Do you even have a personal physician who monitors your health and treats you promptly with skill and compassion?
Before the Diagnosis, a Dance of Evasion
In the hours before the doctors came to the hospital room to deliver the pathologists’ final report, my friend knew the gravity of his father’s case. He knew the mass in his father’s pancreas was a malignant tumor. And he knew not because the doctors in the hospital had shared their suspicions, but because they could not look at him in those hours before.

The diagnosis was in their body language.
Medical Studies Vary in Validity of Findings
But Frankie Avalon, a ’50s singer and actor turned supplement marketer, had another view. When the bad news was released, he appeared in an infomercial. On one side of him was a huge stack of papers. At his other side were a few lonely pages. What are you going to believe, he asked, all these studies saying beta carotene works or these saying it doesn’t?

That, of course, is the question about medical evidence. What are you going to believe, and why? Why should a few clinical trials trump dozens of studies involving laboratory tests, animal studies and observations of human populations? The beta carotene case is unusual because much of the time when laboratory studies, animal studies and observational studies point in the same direction, clinical trials confirm these results.
Health Care Costs Increase Strain, Studies Find
Two studies released Wednesday provide further evidence of the toll that health care is increasingly placing on working families, even for those with health insurance. And as employees are paying more medical expenses out of their own pockets, they are having a harder time coming up with the money.
A Doctor's View of Health
Kidney and liver failure clearly spell the end of health. At least, they used to; now the borders are not quite so clear. You have your newly transplanted organ, and it is working beautifully, as long as you take handfuls of pills to crush your immune system into submission. Are you sick? Are you well? You are on a small island in the middle of the river, with lovely views of a rock and a hard place. And yet, you wake up in the morning, and you feel pretty good.
Many Seek Second Opinions From Health Sites and Online Communities
t least three-quarters of all Internet users look for health information online, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project; of those with a high-speed connection, 1 in 9 do health research on a typical day. And 75 percent of online patients with a chronic problem told the researchers that “their last health search affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition,” according to a Pew Report released last month, “The Engaged E-Patient Population."

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.