AMA guidelines for health info on the web–New site for the public

Tried to look at an interesting article about some new oral medications that work pretty well for men who experience erectile dysfunction after having prostate surgery, but the information is listed as restricted–not even an abstract was available without a subscription (all their journal subscriptions hover in the $200-area). Not sure why, so I checked out The American Medical Association’s website.

Doctors in general are understandably concerned about people just jumping onto the Internet for medical information. How do they tell what’s legitimate? So the AMA has issued some lengthy guidelines. Here’s an excerpt:

The Internet has permitted physicians, other health care professionals, patients, and other consumers to quickly access medical information in unprecedented volume. Such access has the potential to speed the transformation of the patient-physician relationship from that of physician authority ministering advice and treatment (with sometimes questionable patient understanding and adherence to recommendations) to that of shared decision making between patient and physician. However, several substantial barriers remain before this relationship can be realized. These barriers include equitable access to information, imbalance between patient health literacy and the information provided, extreme variability in the quality of the content, potential for commercial interests to influence content, and uncertain preservation of personal privacy.1-4

Web users have been warned regarding the incomplete, misleading, or inaccurate medical information available on the Web.3 For those seeking easy ways to identify high-quality, reliable information, some Web sites and organizations have provided rating systems to evaluate quality of information on the Internet. However, these systems often do not provide the criteria used to assess quality, nor do they provide the reliability and validity of their measures.2,4,5 Ultimately, assessing the quality of content depends on the same factors that readers of print publications depend on: authorship of the content, attribution to the sources of content, disclosure of funding and competing interests, and timeliness of the information presented.3

And here’s the best–they’ve teamed up with 6 other medical professional associations to start a new site designed specifically to provide the public with health information–it’s called Medem and it’s a very user-friendly site. You can keep a record of all your medical information (wonder how many privacy-conscious people will do this?), find a doctor, sign up for education programs, use their medical library to look for info by your time of life or for a particular disease or condition, and so on.

So now you can check what you might read somewhere else against an approved authority. It’ll be interesting to see how well they cover alternative care options.