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Searching for Health Information Online (Part 2)

In part 1, I introduced ways of searching for health information online and discussed Healthline's approach and its innovative use of HealthMaps. In this post I'll discuss MedlinePlus.

MedlinePlus.gov is a service of the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. From the website:
MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. Preformulated MEDLINE [medical literature] searches are included in MedlinePlus and give easy access to medical journal articles. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news.
To use an example, having returned from the emergency department after having a kidney stone, our hypothetical patient from part 1 would see the following after searching for "kidney stones" on MedlinePlus:
The search results are divided into topics, including kidney stones, bladder diseases, and other diseases of the kidney. The section on "kidney stones" has a large amount of information (which some patients might find overwhelming). Links include patient information from the National Institutes of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, the American Medical Association, the American Urological Association, and many other sources.

Also included is a link to Clinicaltrials.gov -- this site, created by the National Library of Medicine, is a search engine for federally and privately supported clinical trials, and is the best place to go to answer the question, "What research trials are being done on this particular disease?" (At some time in the future, I'll write a post on Clinicaltrials.gov; it's a useful and underutilized resource.)

Finally, another possible source for medical information is the web pages of individual physicians. Services like Google Page Creator now make it easy for health care providers (or anyone, for that matter) to create simple websites inexpensively or for free, no programming knowledge required. For example, on my website, I've created a page linking to information on kidney disease. This links to another page which lists types of kidney diseases, which includes information on kidney stones and this link that I've chosen from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Ves Dimov talks further about using Google Page Creator on the Clinical Cases and Images blog.

Part 3 will look at more useful sources of health information online.
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About the Author


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