Tools and Links
The internet can be a great source of medical information, but its also full of misinformation. This page has been designed as a useful entry point in your quest to become a better informed and healthier patient. The tools and links on this site have been reviewed for accuracy and are felt to be some of the best sources on the internet. As always, please review information found on the internet with your doctor before making any important lifestyle or medication changes.
Calculate your Body Mass Index
Calculate your Heart Attack Risk
Drug Interaction Checker
Many people are taking more than one drug for their blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes etc. When you are on so many medications to start with how do you know what's safe to take for your headache or cold. Click here to access an online drug interaction tool which can help you sort out your choices.
How to safely use the internet for medical advice
A quick word of advice about using the internet to research medical questions. The internet is a great source of information but it is also unregulated and unedited. Anyone who can build a website can give out medical advice without so much as a college degree in basket weaving. I have listed some sites on this page that are very reputable and provide reliable information. While the list of sites will cover most of your needs you will no doubt explore other sites as well. There are plenty of other reliable sources of medical information that you can use but I would recommend just a few rules as you search the internet.
- Try to use sites from well respected medical authorities or institutions. Avoid sites created by celebrities ans never follow advice found on these sites unless you review it with your physician first.
- Be very careful when searching for hot button topics like Lyme disease, weight loss, vitamins, and vaccine information on the internet unless you are going to review what you find with your doctor. With vaccines for example, try to stick with well respected sources like the CDC website listed on this page. Everything you need to know about vaccines can be found there. For every legitimate web site about vaccines there seem to be a hundred disreputable sites on the subject. The CDC has the most comprehensive and reliable information available for vaccine information. Always start your search there and tread carefully when searching for vaccine information on other sites.
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine ( also called CAM ) - This category covers many things from herbs and supplements to massage and acupuncture. Virtually anything that has not been through rigorous medical testing or standard medical trials. Because of a law passed in 1994 known as the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), products defined as dietary supplements are not required to meet any standard of proof that they are safe or effective. The FDA's ability to regulate these products has been significantly limited by the DSHEA. In fact, there is almost no governmental regulation of this industry in most cases. There is some reputable scientific inquiry occurring in this area but since there is no regulation, almost anyone can claim whatever they like about the safety and benefits of a supplement with little or no scientific evidence to back them up. CAM medicine has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone mostly on the basis of unproven claims. Unfortunately because big money is involved and because there is no regulation of this industry the vast majority of information on the internet concerning CAM medicine is inaccurate. CAM has truly become the lawless "Wild West" of medicine with snake oil salesmen in every town. On this page I have provided a link to the National Institute of Health website for CAM. This is one of the few reliable sites on the web if you want to research a CAM treatment.
- Dr. Google - While there are many useful ways to use the internet to improve your health, using Google to diagnose a problem is not one of them. Google is quite possibly one of the worst doctors I have ever met. Type in a set of symptoms and you are more likely to get a fatal diagnosis than an accurate one. Google seems to believe its users all have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I have seen more than a few patients spend a night and thousands of dollars in the ER because Google said their simple headache was a brain tumor, or that the twitch in their side was an aneurysm. More worrisome is the possibility that a Google search might result in a person underestimating the importance of their symptoms and not getting the medical attention they need. If you have symptoms you are concerned about go to a real doctor not a virtual one that is deaf, dumb, and blind. Your $25 copay is a small price to pay for piece of mind and a lot cheaper than a visit to the emergency room or a missed diagnosis.