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A Guide to Health Info in Cyberspace

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The Internet has vast amounts of medical resources—more than you may have ever imagined—and it could be time to start taking advantage of all that’s out there.


Here’s a guide to some of the many topics and services you can find online.


General Information
A great place to start your Web health search would be the Internet-based specialist medical resource companies such as Healthline, RevolutionHealth, and WebMD, which cover everything from symptoms of an illness to pregnancy advice, pill checking, and so much more.


Personal Health Records
Personal health record suppliers are also taking steps to become more accessible. Bio-Imaging Technology subsidiary CapMed is working with Microsoft HealthVault and MyMedicalRecords is working with Google Health to expand the field.


Insurers
Health-insurance companies such as Humana and United Health are investing large amounts of time and money in Web sites. They include the basics such as maintaining health records in a database available online, offering easy access to required forms, and listing doctors who offer services under your health plan.


Aetna takes a step further for some of its clients who can not only link to claims handling but also, through RelayHealth, make appointments with their doctor or even experience online consulting, prescription processing, and see their own personal health records.


Media Companies
Don’t imagine that the media is ignoring health. In fact, the mainstream media outlets such as CNN have dedicated areas of their Web sites specifically to health. They are able to invest in having media doctors, panelists, and guest writers providing insights for our apparently insatiable appetite.


The traditional media, newspapers such as the New York Times and USA Today, owned by media giant Gannett, are well aware of the interests of their readers and cater to them online. Some of these sites require registration for full access but can be incredibly deep in their content and offer something different to their audiences.


What about your favorite magazines? Naturally they cater for your health and medical interests online as well as in print. Just look at the choices available, from Good Housekeeping to Self, lifestyle magazines that include dietary advice such as Health or Shape and even foodie magazines such as Gourmet offering healthy options.


Is the new media darling, the blog, exempt from a devotion to health? Little chance of that! There are medical blogs to satisfy almost every desire, ranging from the musings of a family practitioner on Dr. Secretwave101 to informed commentary on debates within the medical profession, such as the Kevin, M.D. blog.


Drug Companies
The Web gives you direct access to the pharmaceutical companies. Both Merck and Pfizer have links to extremely detailed information about their brand name drugs and medical research. Merck’s comprehensive Web site has links to resource material for both doctors and the general public, together with publications about subjects such as health and aging.


Selecting a Doctor
Besides your health insurer, there are many Web sites that can help you select your doctor, such as MedicineNet. Not only will sites give you details about location and qualifications, some, such as RateMDs will also provide ratings from patients.


In addition to the sites specializing in physicians, there are Web sites that will give you a similar service for hospitals as well. Some of them are free, such as UCompareHealthCare but some will charge you for detailed information, such as HealthGrades.


What about prescriptions? This can be a very high-cost area for many. Does it matter where you buy your drugs? A small sample of online checks for Lipitor 10 mg found prices varied by more than $110 (46 percent) for 90 tablets, so it pays to shop around if your prescription plan allows, especially for higher costing or chronic medications.


I have barely touched the world—or should it be galaxy—of Web health, but this should help you get a sense of how much is out there.


By Gavin Magor of MainStreet

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