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Judge: web sites for health

If you want to build your confidence in using the Internet look for taster sessions or short courses at local organisations like public libraries, the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association), further education colleges or universities. However there may be a small fee for courses.

Public libraries provide free access to the Internet.

The following sites provide free online tutorials for developing Internet skills. They are produced by the higher education sector in the UK.

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The process of looking for information is important, and helps many people adjust to their condition.

There are stages to a condition. Different types of information may be needed at these different stages.

  • Before a diagnosis: (a) to work out what the problem is.
  • Just after a diagnosis: (a) to find out why it has happened; (b) to find anything that might help.
  • Later on in the condition: (a) to focus on the things that work for you; (b) to find more detailed information;

    (c) to read the medical research literature.

Support groups as sources of information

At all these stages, it can be very helpful for a person to make contact with a support group for their particular condition, and to talk to someone in the group. So helping people to find the Web sites of national or local support groups is very important.

Provide local organisations with your contact details, including your site URL, for example:

  • GP practices, hospitals and special clinics;
  • Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) in Trusts;
  • public libraries;
  • social services;
  • local authorities;
  • education authorities.

Promote the value and importance of giving people contact details of support groups.

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Judge: web sites for health

Health information gateways provide free access to a catalogue of health and medical Internet sites. You can look for information under subject sections, or search the gateway using keywords.

  • Advise health consumers to use gateways first, rather than to go straight to a search engine.
  • Provide links to gateways on your site.

There are a number of gateways that would be useful. Here are some examples.

  • NHS Direct Online (http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk) [Opens in new browser window] NHS Direct Online is produced by the NHS. It provides high quality health information and advice. You can also make an online enquiry, or telephone a 24 hour nurse advice and information helpline.
  • Contact a Family (http://www.cafamily.org.uk) [Opens in new browser window] Contact a Family produces a directory of conditions affecting adults and children. The directory gives a medical description of the condition, followed by details of related support groups. There is also a helpline service. Contact a Family is a UK charity which helps families who care for children with any disability or special need. They are a main source of information about rare disorders and are able to assist affected adults as well as children.
  • Patient UK (http://www.patient.co.uk) [Opens in new browser window] Patient UK is a directory to health Web sites in the UK. It contains information about conditions, support groups, books and journals, and locations of GP practices and hospitals. Patient information leaflets are also available. It is a free site edited by two GPs.
  • Intute: Health and Life Sciences: Medicine (http://www.intute.ac.uk/healthandlifesciences/medicine/) [Opens in new browser window] This is “a free online service providing you with access to the very best web resources for education and research, evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists. This service was formerly known as OMNI.”
  • National electronic Library for Health – NeLH (http://www.nelh.nhs.uk) [Opens in new browser window] NeLH is produced by the NHS. It contains good quality information that provides the evidence for health care. Though aimed at the health professional, most of the site is freely available to the public too.
  • MEDLINEplus (http://medlineplus.gov) [Opens in new browser window] MEDLINEplus is produced by the US government. It provides information on conditions, a medical encyclopaedia and medical dictionaries. For every condition covered, you can click on a link to MEDLINE for a pre-set search of recent research articles. MEDLINE is the top database to the international medical research literature.

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Judge: web sites for health

Advise people to use search engines if they cannot find what they want from the gateways.

Provide links to one or two search engines from your site.

Here are some examples of search engines.

If you want to find out about individual search engines and what they do go to Search Engine Watch (http://searchenginewatch.com) [Opens in new browser window].

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Judge: web sites for health

Give people guidance on how to judge the quality of health information they find on the Internet.

Provide a link to the Judge: Web sites for health, consumer guidelines.

Provide links to other quality guidelines. Here are some examples.

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Give tips on how health consumers could best ask their doctor about information they have found on the Internet, for example, a piece of medical research, a particular therapy or drug.

Suggest they talk it over with a support group first. This could answer many of their questions. However you must make it clear that support groups cannot replace consultation with a doctor.

Advise them to make best use of the short consultation time they will have with a very busy doctor by:

  • selecting one piece of high quality information, from a professional medical source: (a) written by a doctor or medical researcher; (b) with the author’s name and details; (c) the date, and details of the source; (d) the Web address.
  • taking this to the consultation:
    (a) or sending the information in advance so the doctor has time to read it.

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Judge: web sites for health

Give a few hints about how to use search engines more effectively.

  • Unless your search is very simple, always use the ‘advanced search’ option provided by the search engine (normally a link near to the search box on the home page). ‘Advanced search’ allows you to do things like: (a) find results with all of the words you type in your query. This makes it much more likely to find relevant sites and cuts down on the number of results; (b) find results with the exact phrase, by putting the words in quote marks “…”. This is very useful when looking for names of diseases, organisations, people; (c) choose the language, for example, English.
  • The Help pages will give you details about how to use the search engine and how to search more efficiently.
  • If you only use one or two search engines then time spent reading their Help pages will be well worth it.
  • When using other search tools like gateways and directories look at their Help pages too.
  • A summary leaflet of the “How to search” section of the consumer guidelines is available on the Print or download the guidelines page. You can make copies to handout to other people.

Confidence building

A person’s confidence in searching the Internet for information can be increased if they learn more about how to search.

  • Suggest that people take taster sessions or short courses at local organisations like the public library, the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association), further education colleges or universities. There may be a small fee for courses.
  • Recommend the local public library as a place where they can get free access to the Internet

There are Web sites that provide free online tutorials so you could think of placing links to these on your site. Here are some examples.

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