Medical advice online is available via a variety of sources. These sources range from commercial, to non-profit, and governmental. We'll examine a few of the major players in each sector.
After a shakeout in the commercial medical websites (remember DrKoop.com?) there are a number that have emerged with viable financial models that can also be useful for preliminary medical information. The leader in the industry is WebMD, a site that has shown sufficient success that it can afford to engage in broadcast advertising. A recent start-up that made a lot of noise when its doors opened is Revolution Health, a company that hopes to compete with WebMD and others; among their plans are kiosks in retail stores that will provide a sort of hybrid service. Revolution Health was founded by Steve Case, the man who brought us AOL.
Other strong contenders include MedlinePlus; a well organized site that includes, among other informational sources, 165 tutorials using slides and/or video. This site contains the health database produced by NIH's National Library of Medicine. eMedicine.com started out as a professional resource for those in the medical profession. According to their website, "Nearly 10,000 physician authors and editors contribute to the eMedicine Clinical Knowledge Base, which contains articles on 7,000 diseases and disorders. The evidence-based content, updated regularly, provides the latest practice guidelines in 59 medical specialties." In 2003 they launched a consumer version at eMedicineHealth.com.
MedHelp.org, despite its org. designation, is a commercial online healthcare destination. They claim to be the sixth most visited healthcare website. Medem is a hybrid website, designed to provide an online location for personal health records. The site combines its physician-oriented service with some consumer information. It's the online version of a medical health records third party administrator. It is also recognized as an excellent resource for information by other information providers in the field.
From the U.K. comes NHS Direct located at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/help/. The service began as a telephone consultancy for health issues and is now more than a telephone health line - along with their website; they have added a digital TV service that is interactive. The home page has a couple of excellent tools for assisting in analyzing symptoms.
For a vetted list of informational sites visit healthweb.org/. This site simply lists medical issues in clickable form. Click on diabetes, for instance, and you will be given a page with several medical schools and affiliated research organizations that have specialty information on the topic located on their websites. Another fine compendium of information is posted by the Department of Health and Human Services at consumer.gov/health.htm. This site provides a list of issues and illnesses to choose from and has in its database a great deal of specific material from such resources as the National Institutes for Health.
The Medical Library Association has a top ten list of sites that they have identified on the basis of credibility, content, purpose and links. Those include cancer.gov; familydoctor.org; the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.com) and kidshealth.com which is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation.
Other highly recommended non-profit sites include the University of Pittsburgh's Health Information for the Consumer at www.hsls.pitt.edu/guides/chi/. This site is another well organized consumer site that provides basic information on health problems and suggests a path for finding treatment. Aetna provides the support for InteliHealth (intelihealth.com) a site that utilizes Harvard Medical School's consumer health resources.
If you're looking for a family orientation, there's medFamily at: medfamily.org. This site contains sections on women's health and children's health along with the standard collection of encyclopedic material and featured articles. For general information and recommendations, the large organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society have large databases. The AMA in particular tries to provide localized information for people seeking medical help.
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