June 11, 2001
BY HOWARD WOLINSKY AND JUDI WOLINSKY
You need information, and you need it now. Yet you can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of healthcare sites and confused by conflicting, misleading and downright inaccurate advice.
"You do have to be careful about what you read on the Internet," says Robert Shultz, 31, an Atlanta-area school psychologist who was diagnosed with testicaular cancer in 1998. "There is lots of garbage out there. What impressed me about TCRC (Testicular Cancer Resource Center) was it was put together by two guys who had been there and had testicular cancer.
"It was done professionally, with clear and concise information. They were not pushing a product. Their only obvious agenda was to educate people about testicular cancer."
Through the site, co-founded by Doug Banks, 35, a testicular cancer survivor from suburban Chicago, Shultz steeped himself in the in-depth information on this disease, the leading cause of cancer deaths in young men. He learned the technical lingo he needed to know to understand what his surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center in New York was talking about.
At www.acor.org/diseases/TC, Shultz also learned step-by-step what he would undergo during testing, how to understand the pathology report and what to expect from the orchiectomy operation to remove a cancerous testicle and a follow-up procedure he would undergo.
In researching our book, Healthcare Online For Dummies (Hungry Minds Inc., $6.16), we put together a list of Internet tools that can help you find the answers you need quickly from trusted sources.
To find out about almost any health topic
Head over to www.medlineplus.gov. This site, from the National Library of Medicine, can inform you about a particular disease, connect you with support groups and point you to the latest medical journal articles and research studies on the topic.
The site also has a lushly illustrated medical encyclopedia, links to medical dictionaries and information about medications and their side effects.
Another pit stop can be found at www.healthfinder.gov. If you want to find background on a disease or a link to a support group, go to this site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
To find a medical journal
Sometimes you want to find out what the medical doctors are reading on a topic. To track down a medical journal article, go to NLM's Medline through Internet Grateful Med at igm.nlm.nih.gov for summaries of articles. Use the information from the summary to track down the complete article through your local public library. You also can order it online through the Loansome Doc document service, which you can reach through Internet Grateful Med.
Look up a medical term
If you need help translating medicalese, go to MedTerms at www.medterms.com. NLM also links to several medical dictionaries at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dictionaries.html.
To find a research study
If you or a family member or friend is not responding to conventional treatment, consider joining a research study. Find government-sponsored studies through NLM's listing at www.clinicaltrials.gov. You can also find out about drug industry-sponsored studies at www.centerwatch.com. If you request it, CenterWatch will notify you via e-mail when new studies on a particular disease are listed.
To find out about a medication
You may want learn more about a medicine, such as its side effects, its interactions with foods or other medications, and so on. Go to Drkoop.com's DrugChecker at www.drugchecker.com or to CBS's www.cbshealthwatch.com.
To compare drug prices
Go to www.destinationrx.com. To check out online pharmacies, visit Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites at www.nabp.net/vipps/consumer/search.asp.
To find support online or offline from other people with similar health concerns: Go to DIRLINE: Directory of Health Organizations at dirline.nlm.nih.gov.
To check out a physician
If you want to find out where a doctor attended med school, when he graduated, where he did his residency, and possibly even his office hours and a map to his office, look under the DoctorFinder feature at the American Medical Association's site at www.ama-assn.org.
The American Board of Medical Specialties can verify whether a doctor is board certified at newsearch.asp.
If you're willing to pay $9.95, you can learn whether the state medical licensing board has disciplined a doctor. The Federation of State Medical Boards offers consumers instant access to a database containing approximately 115,000 board actions taken against 35,000 physicians dating back to the early 1960s. Get your credit card ready and go to www.docinfo.org.
To check on a hospital
HealthGrades at www.healthgrades.com gives grades on the quality of care provided by hospitals and other health organizations. To see how a hospital fared during its review by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, go to www.jcaho.org and look under QualityCheck.
If you want to find the best teaching hospitals rated by 2,550 medical specialists, go to usnews.com at www.usnews.com.
To check on a nursing home
Nursing Home Compare at www.medicare.gov enables users to get the background on homes and to view their inspection reports.
For quick linking to these sites, visit and bookmark www.healthcareonlinefordummies.com