Following along the lines of the last post, here are some recommendations for Web databases that may help you avoid worst-case outcomes for any health-related conditions. After all, the best way to avoid the dangers of a hospital visit is to avoid the visit in the first place if possible. All of these databases are either on a list recommended by the Medical Library Association or ones I have used and trusted in the past. All except the ConsumerLabs service below are free.
Starting with the Medical Library Association, visit their list of the Top 100 Health Websites You Can Trust. Here you can browse by ten different categories including General Health, Women’s Health, Men’s Health or Senior Help. You also can download and save to your computer the list in PDF searchable format.
If alternative approaches such as naturopathy, Chinese medicine or other supplementary therapies interest you, then the National Institutes of Health “A to Z” database provided by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health can help. Through this site, you can subscribe to updates on specific topics.
An authoritative database of disease conditions and treatment is available at the Medscape site. You can browse conditions or search by keywords.
If pondering what to do next about a diagnosed specific condition, the Patient Decision Aids provided by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute may be helpful. According to this database, “The A to Z Inventory of Decision Aids is designed to help you find a decision aid to meet your needs. It contains up-to-date and available decision aids that meet a minimal set of criteria.” The list allows searching by key word or browsing. Retrieval lists how well each decision aid met the established criteria plus a link to the article itself.
A very useful service, well worth subscribing to, is the U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Animal & Veterinary Safety & Health Recalls & Withdrawals. Sign up at that site for frequent updates, warning and recalls regarding medical devices, drugs, cosmetics, foods and veterinary medicine.You might be surprised at the number of recalls constantly happening. Trader Joe’s seems to be having a number of problems in the past few weeks.
Given a prescription for a new drug, I recommend checking it on rxlist.com. This provides readable (as opposed to the 4pt Myopic type size on pharmaceutical companies package inserts) information in areas such as side effects, precautions (note Geriatric effects for that age group), precautions, warnings and contraindications. To cover all bases, double check a new drug with the Pill Finder search on this site. By entering any imprint on the pill and the color, plus optionally the shape, you can verify you are taking the medicine you thought you were prescribed. This way you may avoid one of the significant causes of morbidity and mortality in the health care field, prescribing mistakes and/or pharmacy errors (the latter rarer than actual wrong prescriptions).
An inexpensive fee-based database of information on supplements is available from consumerlab.com . For $36 a year or $59 for two years, you can check on quality and cost comparisons in laboratory tested product reviews of over 1,000 supplements by brand. In addition, there is an online encyclopedia of natural products plus recall and warning notices.
Finally, to avoid being taken in by “health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct,” visit Quackwatch. Be sure to read the various explanatory links on this site so you understand the background of the site and its founder, Stephen Barrett, M.D.