To create and foster high patient engagement, every patient must be able acquire the necessary knowledge to be informed. For the longest time, the main source of medical information for patients was their actual physician. Physicians were the gateway into understanding one’s own body and disease process. This has rapidly changed because of the internet. No longer is medical information trapped in old books or a physician’s mind. Now there are thousands of ways to find medical information, much of it completely useless, inaccurate, not widely applicable or simply plain wrong.
Many physicians will complain that their patients find medical information online and want to discuss it or use it to drive diagnosis and treatment. They are worried that the information their patient found is not accurate, that it will distract a patient from the real medical issue. To some degree, all physicians worry about losing their position as an arbiter or gatekeeper of what medical information their patient receives, losing that feeling that their patients see them as the expert.
The next natural step for physicians is to become a guide and help patients navigate health information themselves. It should be a physician’s responsibility to to lead their patients to high quality medical resources. As physicians we need to steer our patients towards good information, which will limit opportunities for them landing on less accurate or just plain quack medicine sites. Below is a good place to start when trying to find good quality medical information
General Medical Information
To find high quality medical information on a wide variety of medical conditions I would start with WebMD, Mayo Clinic, FamilyDoctor.org, KidsHealth and the Center for Disease Control.
Condition Specific Medical Sites
To research a little more deeply on specific conditions I would recommend the following sites. Both Cancer.org and Cancer.net are excellent resources for information on cancer. Heart.org and Diabetes.org are great for researching cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The National Alliance of Mental Illness has great resources on mental illness.
If you are looking for an objective reference for alternative medicines and treatments, the best place to start is the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The website for this division of the the National Institute of Health is full of useful information to make better decisions on alternative therapies and can be found at nccih.nih.gov.
Lastly, I would recommend looking at two two parts of the Healthfinder website. Using the guides provided there, it can give every patient a template for how to prepare and get the most out of their time with their own physician. The section called Take Charge of Your HealthCare provides a step by step guide to maximizing your use of the the healthcare system and you can find that here. My favorite part is the section on Talking With the Doctor. This has many common medical conditions and provides a series of questions that you should be sure to ask about each condition. These prompts can make a visit with your physician much more efficient and may propel you to better decision making with your physician. You can find that site here.