Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

HealthTap – A Free Interactive Heath Network Staffed by Physicians


[Please visit the related articles for the pros and cons of HealthTap.
Yes, HealthTap is free and staffed by physicians.
However, the answers are short and may not be tailored to your specific needs. Nothing can replace consulting with a health care provider at an office visit.
The Forbes article below concludes “you’re getting a few sentences of free medical advice from a group of random physicians, with reputations attested to by other random physicians, who are taking the time to answer your question for free either because of a desire to generate new business or a desire to help their Fellow Man.”

HealthTap seems to be a good tool. However it is  only an information source, and not a substitute for personal care by one’s health care provider.]


“HealthTap is an Interactive Health Network dedicated to improving everyone’s health and well-being. We do this by providing free online and mobile answers from thousands of leading physicians to your health questions, and by personalizing health information for you. HealthTap helps people better understand their health, make the best decisions for themselves and their families, and find the best doctors. We also help physicians better serve their existing patients and find new ones, while demonstrating their expertise and helping people everywhere.”


Health Tap puts medical minds at the fingertips of its users. By doing so, it indirectly tailors information to the user’s needs..I was recently sick with a viral infection and my first thought was to type in my symptoms online. According to Google keyword tool, I’m not the only one. For the word “treatment”, Google gets about 37 million searches each month. For each of the words “sick”, “fever” and “symptom” Google receives about 7 million searches per month. The consumer health market is clearly there to support a site like Health Tap.

Benefits for Consumers

If the initial internet search happens regardless, it is more convenient for individuals to get their information from real physicians than from general sites like Wikipedia or Yahoo Answers, the former being too exhaustive and the latter lacking consistent credibility. The breadth of information that is already available on trustworthy sites such as WebMD and Mayo Clinic **will remain there for those who want exhaustive information.

Benefit for Physicians

By using the site, doctors can help people beyond the scope of their practice. They can also manage their professional internet presence in a less time-consuming manner than they can in a full blog. All they have to do is list their affiliations, connect to other physicians, and answer questions thoughtfully….
Added Value to Health Care 

Does HealthTap add value to the health care or the practice of medicine? No, at least not yet. It does, however, adds to the value of social media. Social networks have become a reflection of what is present in the general public consciousness. Health care deserves a spot in that collective consciousness. Social networks are also useful for facilitating communication. Health Tap could support doctor-patient communication, especially between PCPs and their patients. As far as improving the practice of medicine, Health Tap is not there yet. However, if it can gain mass adoption, leveraging its influence to improve the health care system could be incredible.

** For a short list of trustworthy sites, please see General Guides with links (at Health and Medical News/Resources) by yours truly

 Related articles

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Participatory healthcare: A parody? « ScienceRoll

Participatory healthcare: A parody? « ScienceRoll.

A 1 1/2 minute cartoon where a nurse slowly convinces a doctor on why the Internet is useful in patient education.


December 3, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , | Leave a comment

The White House Calls for Information on Public Access to Publications and Data « The Scholarly Kitchen

Office of Science and Technology Policy

The White House Calls for Information on Public Access to Publications and Data « The Scholarly Kitchen.

From the blog article at the Scholarly Kitchen

f you’re reading this blog, you likely have an opinion aboutopen access to journal articles and research results. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has put out two formal Requests for Information; one on the subject of “Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications” and the other on “Public Access to Digital Data.”

While most of us enjoy the seemingly endless back and forth discussion online (or ranting and raving, as the case may be), this is a chance for all stakeholders to have a direct influence where it matters most.  The White House is crafting requirements for recipients of federal research funding and the information received here will be crucial to setting policy.

There are two separate issues here, public access to journal articles from federally-funded research, and the tricky question of how to make the most of the raw data collected in those federally-funded experiments….

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Librarian Resources | , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate funding of research

Corporate funding of research.

From the  December 2, 2011 posting at Ethics Beyond Compliance

Many of us are suspicious of health and safety claims based on research funded by corporations that get rich off public confidence in the health and safety of their products. I don’t really trust manufacturers of drugs or genetically modified foods to tell me that they are safe. I also would feel better hearing that an oil spill is no threat to life or environment from someone other than the company that spilled the oil. (Many people seem to have made one inexplicable exception to this rule, which I will mention in the postscript.)

Further, when corporations fund research projects or labs, they gain control over what information is published. The scientists involved may have enough integrity to conduct rigorous research, but unwanted results are likely to be suppressed, especially if they will hurt the bottom line. This may be justified by claiming that only “useful” data need be published, but negative data can also be useful and can avoid wasted money and energy. If one researcher finds that something doesn’t work, publishing that data can help others avoid the same mistakes. Of course, researchers do share data, but some studies are also suppressed. Publication of misleading data and suppression of useful data are two possible hazards of corporations funding research that will affect their bottom line.

On the other hand, if corporations are the ones to benefit from research, it seems they should bear the cost of supporting labs, scientists, and related endeavors….

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Closure of fitness centers raises question: Is there a role for government?

From the blog item atOlympia Views -On media, politics and a sustainable public service

Posted on December 2, 2011



The closure of a Bally Total Fitness center in Olympia has generated an unusually interesting discussion inThe Olympian. Rigid ideological positions have at least partially broken down as commentators swap stories about their mixed experiences at local gyms….

For many of us, gyms are an important aspect of our quality of life. They can also play a crucial role in improving community health — which could help control spiraling healthcare costs.

Given all this, why do so many people assume that the “cut-throat world” of the private sector should determine our choices? If out-of-town corporations aren’t providing the quality and stability of services that we need, why not investigate ways for the government to do so?

We have a precedent for this. Local public colleges have gym facilities. For many years The Evergreen State College’s facilities have been available to the public. With better marketing and equipment upgrades Evergreen could handle a fair amount of added capacity.

Speak up if you disagree, but I’m not seeing an effective venue for local governments to assess and coordinate community-wide fitness facility needs. For example, look how long the idea of a community pool in Olympia has been debated. How might we close this “governance gap?”


December 3, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

The day our hospital lost its heart (value of “tea time” among health care professionals)

by   in an article at, where he recalls 10:00 am teatime at his hospital. Doctors , medstudents, and others would gather to discuss, mentor, and informally teach and learn…

From the article

In about 1985, as I remember it, my training hospital underwent a pivotal change. In Cape Town, at the southern tip of Africa, Groote Schuur Hospital was world famous for being the place where in 1967 an arrogant, brash and brilliant surgeon by the name of Christiaan Barnard stunned the world by performing the world’s first heart transplant. Nearly twenty years later, Groote Schuur (Dutch for “Big Barn”) still retained the same aura of celebrity. As a medical student I walked the wards where history had and was being made. Members of the surgical team from that historic event were still to be seen on ward rounds, in the ICU’s, in the operating rooms, and in the communal tearoom. Even Barnard, although no longer operating, maintained a presence – although he missed every lecture scheduled with my class without apology.


The tearoom was in the heart of the hospital, close to all wards, departments and lecture rooms. It was bright and roomy, with faded but comfortable lounge chairs and large wooden tables. And at 10am every day tea and coffee was served without charge in huge pots and white cups to every doctor and medical student who wanted it.
Barnard aside, professors and specialists from all departments would sit in the tea room alongside junior medical students, continue case discussions, answer questions, greet colleagues, accept referrals, or debate completely non-medical issues….

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care

Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care

From the report…

If implemented appropriately, health IT can help improve health care providers’ performance, better communication between patients and providers, and enhance patient safety, which ultimately may lead to better care for Americans. Health IT is designed to help improve the performance of health professionals, reduce costs, and enhance patient safety. For example, the number of patients who receive the correct medication in hospitals increases when these hospitals implement well-planned, robust computerized prescribing mechanisms and use barcoding systems. However, poorly designed health IT can create new hazards in the already complex delivery of care.

In the wake of more widespread use of health IT, the Department of Health and Human Services asked the IOM to evaluate health IT safety concerns and to recommend ways that both government and the private sector can make patient care safer using health IT. The IOM finds that safe use of health IT relies on several factors, clinicians and patients among them. Safety analyses should not look for a single cause of problems but should consider the system as a whole when looking for ways to make a safer system. Vendors, users, government, and the private sector all have roles to play. The IOM’s recommendations include improving transparency in the reporting of health IT safety incidents and enhancing monitoring of health IT products.

December 3, 2011 Posted by | health care | , | 1 Comment

Sleeping problems? Taking A Pill Or Drinking Alcohol Might Not Be Best Option

Sleeping problems? Taking A Pill Or Drinking Alcohol Might Not Be Best Option

From the Medical News Today article of Fri Dec 2, 2011

According to a new study by Ryerson University experts published in the December issue of Behavior Therapy, taking a sleeping pill or drinking alcohol may not be the most effective way to get a better night sleep in the long run for people suffering from insomnia. Heather Hood, a PhD student in clinical psychology and lead researcher of the study comments: “Poor sleepers who engage in what we call ‘safety behaviors’, such as taking sleep medication or drinking alcohol, are actually disrupting their sleep in the long term…

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

Substantial Health Disparities Among Young US Adults

Substantial Health Disparities Among Young US Adults

From the Fri Dec 2, 2011 issue of Medical News Today 

Health disparities among young American adults born after 1980 have grown substantially, according to a new study led by Hui Zheng, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University, that is published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review. Zheng and colleagues also found that the gaps tend to widen as people reach middle age, and then narrow again as they reach old age. They suggest this is because most young people are generally healthy, and at this stage, disparities stay low.
Zheng and colleagues also found that the gaps tend to widen as people reach middle age, and then narrow again as they reach old age.

They suggest this is because most young people are generally healthy, and at this stage, disparities stay low. But as they age, some develop health problems and diseases, so disparities grow. But these fall off again in old age as sicker people die and healthy ones remain. In old age there may also be an effect from older people sharing similar health risk factors due to frailty, and there may also be an equalizing effect from health care usage and protection through Medicare coverage for the elderly…

December 3, 2011 Posted by | health care | | Leave a comment

Are doing harm and allowing harm equivalent? Ask fMRI

Looking at a moral choice Test subjects who feel that doing active harm is morally the same as allowing harm to occur will show more brain activity. The notion that active harm is worse appears to be automatic, a psychological default requiring less thought. (Credit: Cushman Lab/Brown University)

Are doing harm and allowing harm equivalent? Ask fMRI

Actions trigger immediate indignance. Evaluating passive harms requires more thought

From the 2 December 2011 Science News article

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — People typically say they are invoking an ethical principle when they judge acts that cause harm more harshly than willful inaction that allows that same harm to occur. That difference is even codified in criminal law. A new study based on brain scans, however, shows that people make that moral distinction automatically. Researchers found that it requires conscious reasoning to decide that active and passive behaviors that are equally harmful are equally wrong.

For example (see below), an overly competitive figure skater in one case loosens the skate blade of a rival, or in another case, notices that the blade is loose and fails to warn anyone. In both cases, the rival skater loses the competition and is seriously injured. Whether it is by acting, or willfully failing to act, the overly competitive skater did the same harm.

“What it looks like is when you see somebody actively harm another person that triggers a strong automatic response,” said Brown University psychologist Fiery Cushman. “You don’t have to think very deliberatively about it. You just perceive it as morally wrong. When a person allows harm that they could easily prevent, that actually requires more carefully controlled deliberative thinking [to view as wrong].”

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Disabled children do matter

Disabled children and their families 'excluded'

Disabled children do matter

From the Eureka Alert of Fri Dec 2, 2011

(Economic & Social Research Council) Many disabled children fail to reach their full potential because they continue to be marginalized in schools, health and social care, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council….

The findings, which are based on a series of interviews with disabled children and their families, reveal numerous barriers to these goals, for example:


  • Disabled children are often perceived by educational and care professionals as “lacking” and as failing to fit in with the image of ‘normal’; 


  • Families who do not match the norm are frequently excluded from friendships, education and work; 


  • The support system is complicated and there are gaps in provision, particularly during the transition to adulthood; 


  • Physical access and transport barriers to sport and leisure activities result in segregation, while participation in art and creative activities is limited; 


  • Widespread discriminatory attitudes threaten to create a culture of bullying; 


  • Families of children with life-limiting/threatening impairments often experience isolation and poverty 

The researchers call for a change of attitude towards disability so that diversity is not only valued, but promoted. “There is an ‘epidemic’ of labelling children as disabled,” Professor Goodley and Dr Runswick-Cole warn. “Parents are repeatedly under pressure to talk about what their children can’t do in order to access services and support, but sometimes the label can obscure the individual. Families should be asked what support their child requires, not what is the ‘matter’ with him or her.”

Their report recommends that policy should prioritise enabling disabled children to break down barriers by supporting their participation in education, the arts, leisure and their communities and by meeting their communication requirements. “We need to re-think the culture of individualism and performance which pushes disabled children out” continue the researchers. “Pressures on schools are getting worse. We found a case where parents of non-disabled children petitioned to exclude a disabled child. What does this say about the meaning of education and community?”

The study found that bullying is often accepted as inevitable when disabled children are perceived as vulnerable. There were several layers of violence, from manhandling in school to psychological bullying, which often goes unnoticed by adults. Some children do however stand up to bullies and refuse to be limited by labels that are imposed upon them.

One young person insisted on attending Brownies meetings alone, despite health and safety rules that required her mother to accompany her. “Kids seem to enjoy challenging people’s expectations about their limitations,” the researchers commented…

This release is based on the findings from ‘Does every child matter, post-Blair? The interconnections of disabled childhoods‘ funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and carried out by Professor Dan Goodley and Katherine Runswick-Cole at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Psychology, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment


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