The most recent survey conducted by the PEWResearchCenter showed that 72% of adult Internet users have searched the Internet for a range of health information. And now with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementing such ideas as shared decision making and patient engagement, the numbers will most likely increase. In order to maintain healthy patient-doctor communication, a good rule of thumb is directing patients to accredited medical websites.
A nonprofit medical practice and research group based in Rochester, Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic medical group has been in existence for 150 years. It has been ranked in the U.S. News & World Report’s List of “Best Hospitals” for nearly 20 years, and was ranked in Times top 50 Best Websites of 2010. As the first and largest medical group practice in the world, the Mayo Clinic has over 3,300 physicians and medical professionals researching and providing information to the Mayo Clinic website. And in 2010 alone, the Mayo Clinic’s research program generated 2,384 new protocols, which ultimately lead to over 8,000 human research studies and nearly 5,000 research publications. A great resource for both medical professionals and patients, the Mayo Clinic website provides an easy-to-use symptom checker tool and First-Aid guide. With the Mayo Clinic website, both a patient and doctor can maintain healthy communication and stay on the same page.
Another online resource for medical information to direct ones patients is MedlinePlus. MedlinePlus combines the information of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health to present in depth encyclopedic information on over 800 health topics in both English and Spanish. And in order to increase user comprehensibility and ensure access to a range of health literacy levels, MedlinePlus provides links to view its website in over 40 other languages, as well. Unlike competitor websites, MedlinePlus does not endorse other companies or products, and prides itself in its nonprofit status, as well as its ability to therefore provide both safe and up-to-date health information. Having been recognized by notable sources such as Forbes.com’s “How to get the Best Medical Advice Online,” Consumer Reports’ “Websites That Work,” as well as having scored an 84 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index of 2010, MedlinePlus is an online resource with both reliable and quality information that can help patients and doctors be on the same page when it comes to communication.
A resource unlike the previous two, PatientsLikeMe is an interactive website in which patients worldwide with similar diagnoses can connect to share their experience and track their health in real time. Resembling a social network for patients, PatientsLikeMe currently has over 250,000 members, communities that cover over 2,000 diseases, and an average of 10% of newly diagnosed ALS patients joining each month. And it’s not just for patients, either. With permission from their patients, physicians and healthcare professionals can sign in as guests on the site to view the records that their patients have been keeping. It’s a way to help monitor an illness and ultimately open communication between patients and doctors. In fact, recent surveys suggest that 60% of PatientsLikeMe users feel the website has made making decisions about treatments easier, while 63% report the website has helped in opening communication between users and their healthcare providers. Recognized by both Business 2.0 and CNN Money Magazine as one of the “15 companies that will change the world,” PatientsLikeMe is an online resource to which medical professionals can direct their patient while maintaining health communication.
According to the Census Bureau, in 2011 nearly 76% of American households reported having an in-home computer and 72% reported having in-home internet access. Such numbers matched with the ACA’s push for patients to become more involved in their own health care, means that more and more patients are showing up to medical appointments already having done research. That’s why it is more important now than ever before to ensure that you are directing your patients towards reliable and useful resources that will also help to maintain healthy patient-doctor communication.