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Discovery DiscoveryFebruary 2001

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On the Web

Consumer Health Information



Health Webster by Jan Zauha

Your doctor has just suggested that you clear up your annoying skin condition by purchasing klop, a new product made from transgenic salmon. Is this really your best choice? In the past, health information options were somewhat limited. Most likely, you relied solely on the recommendations of your doctor, whether or not they made any sense to you. Even asking the right questions could be a challenge. Today the Web has blown apart the traditional patient/doctor relationship by providing easy access to consumer health information. Now you too can have a meaningful doctor-patient dialog and participate in making better healthcare decisions.

Some of the most trusted names in medicine have developed sites that offer extensive consumer-level information. On MayoClinic.com you can read current health news or visit "centers" for specific conditions. If you search by condition or disease, you will find out about the signs and symptoms, causes, treatment, and suggested self care of your psoriasis. You can search for extensive, but understandable, drug information by brand name. Once there, you may not be surprised to find that "klop" does not come up as a legitimate drug, at least not at this time.

Using Health Information, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you can search the Health Information Index to discover which organizations are doing research into your condition. From Health Information you can move directly into the NIH ClinicalTrials.gov site, to identify trials currently underway for new psoriasis treatments. Linking into MEDLINEplus, also from the NIH, gives you access to numerous medical dictionaries, so that when your doctor says you may also have spondylitis, you don't rush out and begin making funeral arrangements. Using the AMA Physician Select database from the Directories page, you can search for specialists in your area and find out their credentials and affiliations.

If you really want to read what the medical professionals are saying (to each other) about psoriasis, search PubMed, the mega medical database from the National Library of Medicine. Search it for free, but be prepared for more information than you ever thought possible and have the medical dictionary sites bookmarked. A simple PubMed search on psoriasis yields 16,905 articles. For less weighty information, go to the Merck Manual Home Edition, where you'll understand the possible connections between spondylitis and psoriasis by using the free interactive or text-based versions of the consumer edition of this standard medical guide.

Lest you think you are all alone in your concerns over new products that promise great, even unbelievable, things, visit Quackwatch, "your guide to health fraud, quackery, and intelligent decisions." Ultimately your specific curiosity regarding klop can be solved with a simple Web search. Try searching AltaVista for +klop +salmon. Then look for a new doctor.

For help locating more health information, in print or online, call or stop in at the Renne Library reference desk. If you find Web sites that you think might be of interest to the MSU community, please send me an e-mail message at alijz@montana.edu.

Jan Zauha is the reference team leader at the MSU Libraries.

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© 2000 Montana State University-Bozeman

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