Which Medical Websites Are Best?
Online health information is now a worldwide phenomenon, with over 20,000 medical websites in America, Europe, and Asia. Though most people visit these sites only when ill or when they've been diagnosed with a disease or other adverse health condition, some people have actually become addicted to them. These cybercondriacs, as they're sometimes called, may visit online health sites several times a week or more. One thing is certain - if you use medical websites for self-diagnosis or as an excuse to avoid your doctor, you're certainly headed for trouble. Notwithstanding such misuse, online health information resources can be empowering, providing you with an effective tool for maintaining good health. But, how do you know the information you're getting is correct? Here are some guidelines agreed upon by most experts. - Find out who the site's sponsor or owner is. Some sites are primarily commercial. Others are backed by special-interest groups promoting an agenda. Check the About Us section of the website for more information. - What are the credentials of the medical website's authors? Is it scientifically-based or produced by medical professionals? Does the site peddle "miracle" cures? Visit Quackwatch.com for current info on health frauds and myths. - Is the information timely? This is especially important if you're researching medical tests,technology or treatment options. Always look for dates posted as to when revisions were made. - Look for sites with the "HON" seal, indicating a promise to maintain standards set by the Health on the Net Foundation. Also, note that many major online health information sites participate in an accreditation program called HiEthics, conducted by The American Accreditation Health Care - Commission, verifiable through its website. The Big Three Online Health Information Websites Following are three major, reputable online health information sites - no charlatans, quacks or snake-oil salesmen here. WebMD.com This is a site you've probably already heard of and may have already used. WebMD generated almost $300 million in revenues last year, nearly all of it from advertising. It is currently the Internet's largest online health information site and gets over 12% of all health-information traffic. It's a great starting point for your research on almost any health topic. For example, the Disease and Conditions section lets you focus on a specific health problem. Or you can search topics by channels, such as Health and Wellness, Newly Diagnosed, or Living with Illness. However, as you read, notice that some sections are sponsored and may be commercially-slanted. MayoClinic.com This site, affiliated with the world-famous Mayo Clinic, is the second-most-used online health information website. Here you'll find hundreds of in-depth and authoritative articles, an index of diseases, a variety of Condition Centers (for example, Alzheimer's), and Healthy Living Centers (such as Women's Health). To research specific medical tests and treatments, consult the Health Decisions Guide. Mayo Clinic specialists provide most of the content for this huge site. RevolutionHealth.com Founded by Steve Case, who previously founded America Online, Revolution Health is an amazingly comprehensive online health information source. Registration is necessary but this merely requires that you provide your email address and set up a password. For this small investment in time you will have doctor-finding and rating tools, hospital comparative rating charts, disease/medication/treatment research tools, health risk assessment, exercise tracking tools, a 6-week healthy living program, many free newsletters, and much more. You can also sign up for a Premium Membership (for a fee) which provides a "Health Assistant and Advocate" to help you in dealing with virtually any type of health question or concern, from finding training options to dealing with your health insurance provider. Other High-Quality Online Health Information Websites As said above, there are thousands of online health information websites out there and you could spend weeks trying to investigate them all. Following are a few of the best -- websites often cited or recommended in authoritative health and wellness newsletters and reference sites. Medlineplus.gov - Maintained by the National Library of Medicine, you can access information about more than 400 diseases and conditions, a guide to pharmaceutical drugs, links to NIH clearinghouses, and many other useful resources.