MedlinePlus

Summer 2007 CSANews Issue 63  |  Posted date : Aug 07, 2007.Back to list

Recently, I was introduced to a website called MedlinePlus.  At first glance, it appeared a little daunting.  It's big!  It is an American website and it is very good!

MedlinePlus is a service provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.  This website is functional for industry professionals, but the service is also directed to assisting the general public with a better understanding of their health.

Within minutes, I found a mountain of information that I could easily understand by clicking on "Health Topics" then "Seniors' Health"; I saw a long list of choices ranging from Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Alzheimer's symptoms to Urinary Incontinence and Wrinkles.  The articles were concise, easy to follow and didn't leave me with unanswered questions.

The contributing editors on the website are from some of the most respected medical institutions in the United States, such as the Mayo Clinic, The National Institute on Aging, The American Academy of Family Physicians, The American College of Physicians and more.  For additional assurance that I was getting the right kind of information, from the right sources, I read the MedlinePlus Quality Guidelines.  The most valuable information which I found there was that there is no advertising permitted on the website and that there are tight restrictions regarding websites that may wish to "link" to MedlinePlus.com.

"The primary purpose of the web page is educational and not to sell a product or service…Advertisers or sponsors must not play a role in selecting or editing health information." I like that. I felt more secure with the information knowing that it would not be influenced by the massive advertising budgets of the big drug and health-care companies.

Speaking of prescriptions, have you ever wondered what it is that you are taking? MedlinePlus is an excellent resource for answering such a question.  You can peruse a list of "Drugs and Supplements" to find the drug name, or you can go straight to their "Dictionary" and type in the name directly from your prescription bottle.  You will find an easy-to-understand explanation of your medication, why it is prescribed, the potential side-effects, appropriate storage conditions and an extra information section entitled "'I should know' when taking it." All too often, I speak to people who have difficulty with remembering all of their medication, let alone what they are taking it for or what it actually does.  Unfortunately, many of our doctors are so busy that detailed explanations of all the pros and cons of various medications get lost in the process. Couple that reality with a patient not knowing the right questions to ask and you have a potential problem.

MedlinePlus offers an extensive amount of information to help change that and our pharmacists are also playing a more effective role.

Traditionally, information is organized in an encyclopedia.   A medical encyclopedia might just be the most intimidating information resource to which a layperson can turn.  The Medical Encyclopedia on MedlinePlus.com, however, is easy to approach and very easy to use.  I clicked on the "Encyclopedia" link and was provided with the typical breakdown of books from A-Ag to Z.  I clicked on 'P' and looked up Poison ivy, for fun.

This is obviously a simple and common medical condition.  The website provided me with pictures, definitions, scientific information about the poisonous ingredient in poison ivy, information on where poison ivy is found, symptoms, treatments and what to expect; as well as my prognosis for a full recovery.  I now know more about poison ivy than I really want to, but I do know it and it was very easy to learn.

Learning is something which we typically pick up very quickly when we are faced with a new medical condition or treatment.  MedlinePlus.com offers 165 "Interactive Tutorials" about various medical conditions and medical procedures.  This can be very useful for understanding what is happening to you when dealing with a recently diagnosed medical condition. It may also be a relief to really understand any surgery that lies ahead, or specific treatments for your medical disorder.  The tutorials ask you questions to make sure that you are 'getting it' and will help you reach the right answer if you are having trouble.  This is a very reassuring experience which does a lot for a person who is facing his or her medical realities.  I also found that it made working with the website interesting and I was excited to learn more.

This learning experience was a great beginning and I was pleased that I was able to learn anonymously.   I didn't have to 'sign in', provide my e-mail address or even my name, and the extensive information that was available to me at www.medlineplus.com was free.  If you find yourself exploring for medical information online, try this website and start by clicking on the "Director's Comments" – I think that you will like what he has to say.

Want more?
Here are few more of the health-related websites that we find interesting:
http://www.webmd.com/
http://www.hhs.gov/
http://wowhealth.ca/
www.mayoclinic.com
www.clevelandclinic.org