Next Generation in On-line Medical Information

A generation ago, about the only source for medical information was your doctor. And even then, patient’s often felt intimidated, and afraid to ask questions of medical professionals. Today much has changed. Access to information in all forms of media, have empowered patients to take a far more active roll in managing their health. According to Dr. Peter Weist of Cleveland’s MetroHealth Medical Center “Today patients have a lot more access to medical information from the WEB, television, magazines, direct consumer advertising by the drug companies. Patients are taking a much more active role in their health care. They’re investigating their medical problems; they’re asking their physicians about new information about new techniques, and about how this affects their healthcare.”

Despite the wealth of medical information available, when it comes to a complex medical problem people may not know where to turn. This can be especially true of young adults, who may not be comfortable discussing health matters. Or who may obtain information from less than reliable sources. The Cleveland Public Library in conjunction with The MetroHealth Medical Center, has developed a website where patients can discuss medical matters. The user can interact live with a nurse, 24-7, while remaining totally anonymous.

The site is called Know It Now ( Tracy Strobel Web Applications Supervisor for the Cleveland Public Library explains. “The basic concept of the knowitnow site is to connect those seeking medical information with true medical professionals rather than librarians.” The site has been designed for users to get an immediate general response to their medical concerns, from a credible and reliable source. If questions become too complex, or personal, nurses who staff the line will ask the user to call in to MetroHealth, or refer them to a physician in their area. Margie Carroll is a MetroHealth Nurse who staffs the line. “Some people will ask questions that we can just give them basic information and we can send them to another website that they can look over; get what they want and use what they need. But often times if it goes beyond that and someone is experiencing symptoms or has further questions that need more detail we will ask them to call in to the line so that we can advise them more personally and give them direction on what doctor to seek, or what type of physician. And often times they may want someone that we’re familiar with and we can connect them right with that department.” Dr. Weist applauds the service, because MetroHealth’s involvement insures the consumer is getting good information. “It’s difficult to determine what is a reliable source of information.

The WEB is an example today because there’s a lot on the WEB that’s either unreliable, is a fabrication or it’s just somebody trying to make a point for themselves. Metrohealth has developed a collaboration with the Cleveland Public Library in which the on-line information can be screened so it’s good reliable information for the consumer.” Andrew Venable, Director of the Cleveland Public Library feels the system is just another way the library connects to and serves its community. And Dr. Weist adds, “The advantages to being an educated patient is that the individual understands their disease and is more willing to actively participate in their health care.”

In today’s multimedia world, looking for sound healthcare advice can be an intimidating task. Finding it can be even more challenging. In the quest for medical knowledge, the library can be a site for sore eyes – or any other troubling part of the body.

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