Dr. Langford concurs. “I only send my patients to sites run by organizations that I know to have an excellent reputation for accuracy or whose content I have reviewed myself to assure that it is evidence-based,” she says. “I would not advocate giving patients their diagnosis code and suggesting they search randomly.”
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Explore This IssueSeptember 2007
Prescription for Information
Without formally recognizing it, many rheumatologists already give their patients “health information prescriptions.” In 2003, the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine Foundation teamed up with the National Library of Medicine and launched a pilot program called the “Information Rx Project.” After writing a medication prescription, physicians were encouraged to give their patients a health information prescription that referred them to the MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov), a consumer health site of the National Institutes of Health.
Preliminary findings from pilot projects with internists in Iowa, Georgia, and Virginia reveal that 97% of participating physicians make referrals to MedlinePlus and the overwhelming majority uses it daily. Internists who participated in the pilot programs said MedlinePlus empowers patients (54%), explains difficult concepts and procedures (43%), and improves patient–physician communication (42%).
When patients come to my office, I always ask them if they have Internet access. If so, I give them a list of reliable sites.
Dr. Schned takes the health information prescription concept one step further by downloading and printing the information from Web sites while in his office and giving it directly to his patients. “Since my colleagues and I have reviewed many Web sites, I have a ‘favorites’ list of sites that I know are trustworthy, from which I can choose items to print,” says Dr. Schned. “This way, I can tailor the information precisely to my patients’ needs. I usually tell them which sites I recommend and they appreciate that.
“My partners and I use several sources, such as academic sites like the Mayo Clinic, the Hospital for Special Surgery, and the Cleveland Clinic,” he continues. “We also have links to specialty societies, like the ACR, as well as foundations and non-profits, such as the Arthritis Foundation, Lupus Foundation, Vasculitis Foundation, and National Institutes of Health.”
Dr. Schned and his colleagues have also taken online information into their own hands by creating their own Park Nicollet Rheumatology Web pages. “For many topics, we developed our own information based on our perspective,” he says. “For example, we wrote our own information on lab tests and medications, as well as several ‘key’ diseases we treat, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and degenerative joint disease.”