Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Patients find plenty of health information on line, but not all of it is reliable

The Internet has no equal as an information storehouse. The trick is to know how to get right to a source of useful information and not waste time on Web sites that are biased, trying to sell you something or just plain wrong.

Marvin M. Lipman, Consumers Union's chief medical adviser, recalls having a patient who made a Google search and somehow settled on an abdominal aortic aneurysm (a worrisome bulge in the body's main blood vessel) as the logical explanation for his midback pain. No reassuring on Lipman's part eased the patient's apprehension. It took a sonogram to convince him he wasn't at death's door.

Lipman had another patient who was referred to him after her primary-care physician told her she had Graves' disease (an overactive thyroid). She arrived for her appointment armed with computer printouts of useful, accurate information and fully prepared to discuss the pros and cons of treatment options for her problem.

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