Health-care consumers have numerous new options to access medical information as today's technology makes the process more efficient and convenient.
There's more information coming out, and more ways it can be accessed with Web pages, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Even at meetings of the Midwest Chapter of Medical Library Association, blogs were used to post meeting information as it was happening, said Karen Anderson, director of the Angus Cameron Medical Library at Trinity Health in Minot and University of North Dakota Northwest Clinic Campus Librarian.
The different formats in which information can be accessed make it more widely available.
Karen Anderson demonstrates how a computer user can view a Medline Plus Web site tutorial.
"Not everyone watches television or is reading a certain medical journal. Many people are getting their information from the Internet. They may be listening to podcasts on medical topics or watching the information on a DVD or their cell phones," Anderson said.
"With all these resources, people have more access to medical information than ever before," she said.
Some types of information lend themselves better to certain types of technology, Anderson explained. Medline Plus (http://medlineplus.gov), the National Library of Medicine's Web site for consumers, has interactive tutorials showing animated diagrams that explain and show different processes such as digestion or circulation. The animation makes the information more understandable, because people can see the process instead of just reading about it.
Twitter feeds can give quick updates on a medication or a condition, and databases can provide links to the full text of medical journals and magazines with the click of a mouse.
With technology, medical information can also be introduced to the public quicker.
"It used to be, you'd have to wait for a book to come out. By the time it was written, and it got through the publishers, the information might be a few years old. Now, with a lot of the journal articles, an online version might come out even before the printed journal," Anderson said.
The faster, more efficient information benefits health-care consumers. Armed with more information, consumers are able to ask their doctors more informed questions.
For example, Anderson explained, people having surgery might use health information resources and ask questions about the benefits and risks of the operation, or about managing their condition.
The main thing consumers need to be aware of is how to evaluate the health information they find, she added.
"People often don't know where to start. A lot of times what I find is that people just type something into Google, and the information that comes up may be good, or some may be misleading," Anderson said.
To help, Anderson has posted many links to health information from the library's Web site as good starting points for health information. To access it, people can visit (minot.com/karen/angus.html).