Find Best Medical Information Online
Have you had this experience? You go to the doctor, get a diagnosis, and then try to figure out what your doctor said and what you need to do to get better.
This post is a nutshell guide to orienting yourself when the need arises. At Mountaintop Acupuncture & Rehabilitation, we’re big believers in being proactive when it comes to our health. With a little research, clearer decisions are made. The operative word is “responsible.”
Getting information on a condition helps us understand how the problem may have arisen, what the common tests and treatment options are, as well has give us some terminology so we can communicate our needs to healthcare professionals better.
We recommend the following sites, because they provide information that is based on quality scientific research.
Medline Plus: overview of common symptoms, treatment options, management strategies of many medical conditions.
Mayo Clinic: a little more detail, stated differently, which allows you to compare and contrast the basic information, helping you orient yourself and deepen your understanding.
Cochrane Reviews: meta-analyses of published studies.
British Medical Journal: published studies.
PubMed: abstracts of published studies.
Research studies of the highest quality are based on standards that seek to minimize bias when collecting data and analyzing it. Quality studies are the polar opposite of “he said, she said.”
Studies must meet the following criteria in order for money and time to be invested:
- Outline the objective, method, and design of the study, with a complete review of related literature published to date.
- Be affiliated with institutions that provide the ethical and scientific checks and balances, to ensure minimum bias and error.
There are many types of studies:
- Randomly Controlled Trial is the research study gold standard in medicine. The RCT gathers information through a rigorous process that mathematically must have minimum bias and error built into its design. The RCT uses human subjects to find out the usefulness of healthcare practices. Built into it is the idea of chance: do some people get better because of other factors, or is the drug/device/protocol/healthcare practice of significant benefit?
- The Large Prospective Study is also highly regarded, because it measures outcomes in the same participants, over a long period of time. Large Prospective Studies provide an opportunity to collect and analyze related data, often resulting in unexpected, useful findings. An example of this is the Women’s Health Initiative, which collected data for 12 years, from 1992-2004, from a large sampling of women. One arm of the study followed breast cancer incidence and hormone replacement therapy, ultimately leading the scientific community to agree to change methodologies in treatment of menopausal women.
- The Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses look at all the studies that have been done on a given subject, to verify the findings of current research, including acknowledgement of weaknesses or shortfalls in the conclusions.
Not all studies are equal, so when you find a favorable study on your subject of interest, it is important to assess several factors: the who, what, where, and why of it. For example, how many participants are in the study, what method to measure and collect data, what type of research design did they use, are the authors well-respected in their field, what institution is involved, and what journal is it published in.