Tuesday, March 10, 2009

5 healthcare tips for digital moms

Moms are the healthcare experts in most families. They need to look after the health of themselves, their children, their spouses and often their parents. Digital moms are able to take advantage of their internet expertise to make their health caring roles much easier. But it is still difficult to find good quality reliable health information on the web, and many moms end up being confused by seemingly conflicting health opinions.
As a practicing physician I have long been recommending certain websites and internet search strategies to my patients. Digital moms have a huge advantage here because of their expertise on the web. Here is a rational search strategy for anyone to find good quality health information.

1. Quick and dirty search.

For a quick simple search there is nothing wrong with doing rapid searches at Google or Yahoo, and at least scan the first 20 or so results. Just remember that Google displays two types of results, sites ranked by a commercially secret algorithmically derived measure of popularity, which is what most people look at first, and sponsored paid links. The second quick and dirty approach to undertake routinely is to go to a couple of quality information sites as your first stop beyond the search engines. I recommend Wikipedia, the amazing open source encyclopedia with great breadth and depth, but a level of inaccuracy, and MedlinePlus which is a Government run site and is, in my opinion, the best overall consumer health site on the Internet.

Many digital moms will want to go beyond this level of search however, so I would suggest the following strategies;

2 Professional journal searching

There are several free programs on the Internet which allow you to search professional peer-reviewed scientific papers from the health and medical journals. The two main professional databases are: “Medline” (also called “Pubmed”) at the National Institutes for Health and “Psycinfo” at the American Psychological Association.

3 Search evaluated Internet health gateways

The beauty of Internet searches is that you can pick up useful reliable information which hasn’t always been published in peer-reviewed journals, but which has been checked for accuracy by teams of medical reviewers. The gateways I use are Healthfinder in the US, or Intute or NHSDirect in the UK. It is well worth looking at Guideline.gov where there is a large collection of peer-reviewed “best practice” treatment guidelines which you can use to compare with your own treatment regime. I also frequently recommend eMedicine which is emerging as the “wikipedia of healthcare”.

4 General Web searches

Now we move to the open areas of the Internet that you will find via search engines. Here you will have to start questioning the quality of the information you retrieve much more critically as most of it will not have been subjected to any real quality review mechanism, and much will have a commercial bias. Try and focus on mainstream sites run by government agencies or universities.

5 Discussion lists and newsgroups

This is where you can waste most time, and where information is least reliable - but it can be fun, and is sometimes helpful, particularly if you want to communicate with others who have similar needs. You may even be lucky and join a group where there is a real expert. There are many groups on the Internet – just put in a search string with the word group, as well as whatever topic you are researching. The largest number of health related ones seem to currently be at Google groups.

Once you have undertaken your searches the most important next step is to discuss your findings with your doctor. The role of many doctors in gradually changing, and they are increasingly becoming “information analysts” helping patients find good quality health information that will lead to good healthcare decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions, and find out what information sources they recommend.

This article is based on excerpts from “Your Health in the Information Age – how you and your doctor can use the Internet to work together” by Peter Yellowlees MD available from Amazon and most online bookstores. All websites mentioned in this article are linked from www.InformationAgeHealth.com where digital moms will also find more useful health information.


  1. Health Care Tips
    Keeping our body fit and healthy has a lot to do with what we eat. We need to eat healthy and for this, we need to eat healthy or in other words, we need to have a nutritious diet. For this, it is necessary that we consume foods that are rich in protein and carbohydrates that not only help us provide energy for our daily activities but also help strengthen our muscles and build our body.

  2. Your points are well taken. But let's not forget the Digital Dad's that may be single parents or even those families that have 2 Dad's or 2 Mom's. Over 1 million children in the US have gay or lesbian parents or caregivers.

    By the way, I very much appreciate you providing a e-book version of your book. What a great way to keep this valuable information mobile and always available for reference!

    Jonathan S. Ware, MD