Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MedlinePlus - a Superb Health Resource

If you already use MedlinePlus, congratulations for turning to one of the best, in my opinion, health resources on the Internet. If you've not used it before, my goal is to convert you to praising its virtues!

MedlinePlus ( is a resource that debuted in 1998 put together by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Each and every resource on this site has been reviewed by the NIH and NLM. There are absolutely no advertisements on this website. Resources include health websites, news and research articles, drug information, medical encyclopedia and dictionary, organizational directories, images and videos, tutorials, clinical trials information, and multi-lingual patient handouts.

#1 Reason for using MedlinePlus instead of Google to search a health topic on the web: It saves you time!

As soon as I learned about MedlinePlus 3.5 years ago, I trained myself to go straight there, instead of Google, to get more information on a health topic if I'm not using a formal database, such as PubMed. Because each result in a MedlinePlus search has been pre-screened by the NIH and NLM, you can be confident that the information is accurate and trustworthy. The annoyance of having to guess what's reliable health information on a Google search is squelched when you use MedlinePlus.

Here are tips on how to best search MedlinePlus:

(1) Browse the Health Topics link to get a good overview of how the site is organized.

The page of any topic that you navigate to, ie breast cancer, will have a table organizing information into the categories of Basics, Learn More, Multimedia & Cool Tools, Research, Reference Shelf, and For You.

(2) When you use the search box to look for information, use the topics listed in the left menu of the results page to narrow your results.

Choosing a listing that has (National Library of Medicine) will get you to the same summary page on a topic as you found by navigating in the Health Topics section.

(3) Use the Drug & Supplements, Medical Encylcopedia, and Dictionary links to search any specific drug or medical term.

The results on these links can usually get you to your specific topic quicker than if you searched a term in the general search box.

(4) Use the Directories link to find doctors, dentists, hospitals/clinics, health care providers and facilities.

This feature can be especially helpful when you need to find specialists in a particular region of the U.S.

(5) The Other Resources link gets you to a list of medical organizations listed alphabetically and also by health topic.

This is helpful when you need to find any organizations that could help you or your patient find out more about resources on a specific topic.

(6) The Multiple Languages link provides health topics in over 40 languages!

For example, if you have a Hmong patient who needs literature about childhood immunization, MedlinePlus will provide that for you.

On the right side of the MedlinePlus homepage are four specialized resources:

Interactive Tutorials - this page provides extremely well-made and easy to follow tutorials that cover health topics and medical procedures.

Clinical - the NIH database of clinical trials. This is definitely a key resource when you need to find information on clinical trials.

Senior Health - the information is specific to older adults. The text size and color contrast are easily adjustable to be more readible. There is even a "Speech" option to have the text narrated to the viewer if they are having trouble reading the words.

Surgery Videos - this is an extensive collection of one-hour pre-recorded webcasts of surgical procedures. This can be helpful if you are interested in learning about a procedure or can stomach the details of an upcoming surgery that you or someone you know may be undergoing.

REMINDER: Use MedlinePlus as a starting place to find health information on the web instead of Google.

Try it out and let me know if I've managed to win you over!


Joy Graham said...

Nice work, Josephine. I've been a MedlinePlus true believer for a long time, but I think your post will get a few converts too.

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