Make Sure Your Health Care Information is Current and Relevant
This increase is likely in response to the trend in health care to make the patient more responsible for his own health status and outcomes. In order to accomplish this, people need information. Information is readily available on the Internet.
Physicians and other health care practitioners do not have the time or resources to educate patients adequately. They do the best they can with the ten to fifteen minutes they typically spend with the patient in an office appointment. They may supplement their teaching with brochures, pamphlets and other literature for the patient to read.
The problem is that more than half of the population is health care-illiterate. This doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t read, but that they don’t understand their health status enough to know where to begin to ask questions or to seek information.
What Can Consumers Do?
So how do consumers know that they have found accurate information? Anyone can post information on the Internet. What makes this information legitimate, accurate and effective?
In this day of instant gratification, it’s time to slow down and carefully evaluate the information on any subject. Common sense and a good dose of skepticism can be a healthy thing. Always remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Not always, but most times.
The health care industry has taken many measures to try to protect consumers from the snake oil sellers. One such effort is the Hon Code; Health on the Net Foundation. Many of the most reputable health websites have been accredited by this organization.
Tips for the Researcher
Another such watchdog is the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) who makes the suggestion that consumers do their homework when researching and evaluate the medical advice on the Internet by discovering:
- The purpose of the website
- Who runs the site
- Who pays for the site
- Where is the information derived
- How recent is the information
- Is the information reviewed by medical experts before it’s published
If the website is run by a drug company and it’s promoting specific medications, it’s going to be biased. If the website is run by a lay person, understand that they may be very knowledgable, but are not a medical expert.
Understand that medicine is not an exact science. It is an ongoing learning experience for patients and practitioners alike based on evidence and knowledge. Not every person reacts the same to a medication or treatment. Studying the trials and errors helps everyone to benefit.
Practitioners don’t always have time to keep up with all of the latest research and they are often influenced by the vendors who bring them sample drugs, information, literature and equipment.
Health care consumers may have to do some research on their own, and then bring the information to the practitioner to discuss its relevance to their particular case. Finding timely and accurate information is vital to successful outcomes. Scrutinize the information. Don’t grasp at straws, demand proof. Slow down and be sure this is the best information.
National Reeserch Corporation
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