Posted by: menotmd | August 1, 2009

Whose gonna clean this colon? Dr. Natura or the MayoClinic?

Hey Folks, every now and then – I’ll feature a colleague of mine who has rocked my world (I keep pestering Andy Drew, MD Detective, but he juggles many things). Ruth Perez (a 35 year old information scientist who rocks the single mamihood as if she wears 10 lbs of secret deodorant – cuz she never lets us see her sweat AND she got 3 children, 9 mths old, 12 yrs and 13 yrs old) was in one of my classes and flipped me from Safari to Firefox because I wanted HON (Health on the Net) on my web browser. This is one of her many contributions to the world. Thanks Ruthie!

President Kennedy outlined the Consumer Bill of Right to Congress in 1962 in which he introduced the six basic rights: Right to be safe, right to choose freely, right to be heard, right to be informed, right to education. In 1962, the World Wide Web was far from being a reality. Today the Internet has brought up new issues with concern to consumer health information. Gone are the days of patients going to the doctor, getting a diagnosis and walking out the door without a question to whether they obtained the correct one. Patients are now playing a more active role in their health care. Consumer health information has evolved as a result of the World Wide Web. As a result, patients have the ability to look up health related information with ease and engage in their diagnosis and treatment options.
Consumer Health information on the Internet has implications for both consumers and the health system. While online health information has its benefits such as sites like the U.K.’s British Medical Association (BMA) and the English National Board (ENB), it has problems. (Cooke, 1999) Accessible, quality health information can be ameliorating, but without a criterion to evaluate this information, the prospect “that both health-care professionals and consumers are at risk from the widespread availability of inaccurate, misleading, and even potentially harmful information.” (Cooke, 1999, p.156) Many health care professionals cringe at the idea that a sea of information surrounds their patients with no one to steer them in the direction of quality sources. Online information has seen consumers take a more active role in their health care. For this reason, health care providers and patients’ therapeutic engagement are increasing. While the patient benefits in participating in their healthcare decisions, some providers take issue. Some providers having been indoctrinated into a paternalistic paradigm become flustered when presented with information of which providers are unaware. While some providers may embrace the informed health consumer phenomenon, other sees a “Pandora’s box of unmanageable problems.” (Cline and Haynes, 2001, p. 675)
Consumers have the ability to access information tailored to their needs. Some sites have links that cater to a specific language, knowledge base or learning style (MedlinePlus is an excellent example of this). Patients can also connect with their health care provider and be vocal in their treatment options (BIDMC PatientSite). In addition there is the benefit that the information on the Internet is updated hourly. The best defense against erroneous information is for consumers to become educated on filtering quality information. There are many resources available for consumers to distinguish quality health information on the Internet. The United States and Europe have been proactive in providing consumers with resources for evaluating health information on the Internet. In Europe resources such as, DISCERN (user guide), Health on the Net (HON) (codes of conduct) and nhs.uk (gateway). United States resources include Medical Library Association (user guide), Health Summit Working Group (codes of conduct) and consumer.gov (gateway). These resources equip consumers with the tools they need to be able to filter out bad or erroneous information.

By the way, if you do a google search on “Colon Cleanse” — you’ll get the sponsored link of Dr. Natura and right below the shade box, will be an article by the MayoClinic asking if Colon Cleansing is healthy. Furthermore, I thought it appropriate when you think about medical information on the internet.

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