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

Peer-To-Peer Health Care

Peer-To-Peer Health Care reports on the use of online connections, especially by those with chronic conditions,  to supplement professional medical advice.

This February 28 2011 report is published by the Pew Research Center, a “nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does so by conducting public opinion polling and social science research; by analyzing news coverage; and by holding forums and briefings. It does not take positions on policy issues.” [From the Pew Research Center About Page]

Some excerpts from the report

  • Many Americans turn to friends and family for support and advice when they have a health problem. This report shows how people’s
    networks are expanding to include online peers, particularly in the crucible of rare disease. Health professionals remain the central
    source of information for mostAmericans, but “peer‐to‐peer healthcare” is a significant supplement.
  • One in five internet users have gone online to find others like them.Eighteen percent of internet users say they have gone online
    to find others who might have health concerns similar to theirs.
  • In the moment of need, most people turn to a health professional for information, care, or support.  When asked about the last time they had a health issue, 70% of adults in the U.S. say they receivedinformation, care, or support
    from a health professional.

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Online Medical Advice Can Be a Prescription for Fear

Online Medical Advice Can Be a Prescription for Fear

From the Resource Shelf news item of February 7, 2011 17:04

Online Medical Advice Can Be a Prescription for Fear

If you’re looking for the name of a new pill to “ask your doctor about,” as the ads say, the Mayo Clinic Health Information site is not the place for you. If you’re shopping for a newly branded disorder that might account for your general feeling of unease, Mayo is not for you either. But if you want workaday, can-do health information in a nonprofit environment, plug your symptoms into Mayo’s Symptom Checker. What you’ll get is: No hysteria. No drug peddling. Good medicine. Good ideas.

This is very, very rare on the medical Web, which is dominated by an enormous and powerful site whose name — oh, what the hay, it’s WebMD — has become a panicky byword among laysurfers for “hypochondria time suck.” In more whistle-blowing quarters, WebMD is synonymous with Big Pharma Shilling. A February 2010 investigation into WebMD’s relationship with drug maker Eli Lilly by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa confirmed the suspicions of longtime WebMD users. With the site’s (admitted) connections to pharmaceutical and other companies, WebMD has become permeated with pseudomedicine and subtle misinformation.

Because of the way WebMD frames health information commercially, using the meretricious voice of a pharmaceutical rep, I now recommend that anyone except advertising executives whose job entails monitoring product placement actually block WebMD. It’s not only a waste of time, but it’s also a disorder in and of itself — one that preys on the fear and vulnerability of its users to sell them half-truths and, eventually, pills.

Source:  New York Times

Shirl’s note:  You can’t go wrong with MedlinePlus, from the National Library of Medicine. Every site linked there has been vetted by a reliable professional.

Editor Flahiff’s note: You also cannot go wrong with these resources (via a Consumer Health Library Guide

Dietary Supplements Labels Database

Information about ingredients in more than three thousand selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to determine what ingredients are in specific brands and to compare ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the health benefits claimed by manufacturers. These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Check out the Help section for tips on how to browse and search this site.

Drug Digest

This noncommercial consumer health and drug information site provides information about drugs and treatment options to be discussed with your primary health care provider or a pharmacist.  Information about over 1,500 drugs as well as common herbs and supplements. The check interactions tab (potential interactions between drugs)  and conditions/treatments area provide easy-to-read overviews. Information provided by Drawing pharmacy experts, licensed doctors of pharmacy, and physicians. From ExpressScripts.

Drugs and Supplements (sponsored by the Mayo Clinic)

Somewhat lengthy drug and over-the-counter medicationinformation with these sections: description, before using, proper use, precautions and side effects. From Micromedex, a trusted source of healthcare information for health professionals. 

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

Drug Information Portal

A good central source of drug information by the US government (the National Institutes of Health). It links you to information on over 12,000 drugs from trusted consumer drug information sources, the US Food and Drug Information, and LactMed ***(summary of effects on breastfeeding), It also gives any summaries from medical and toxicological articles (however, some whole articles may not be for free on the Internet).

For information on how to obtain medical and scientific articles for free or at low cost, click here
***As of July 2011
The National Library of Medicine Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed)
has added complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) products. CAM
products generally consist of dietary supplements derived from botanicals
(herbals), “nutraceuticals” (natural and synthetic nonherbals, such as
coenzyme Q10), and related products.

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Finding Aids/Directories | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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