In a previous post, I recommended healthdirect as a good reliable source of health information. You can find health information on a range of conditions, symptoms, life stages, and medications. The information is reviewed regularly to check it is up-to-date.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a health condition, and/or prescribed a new medication, this site is a good starting point for learning more about either of these.
Healthdirect is written for consumers, so the articles are reasonably detailed, but do not go overboard.
Take the fibromyalgia page, which lists the following treatment elements: graded exercise, sleep, mindfulness, CBT, medications (pregabalin, gabapentin) and some anti-depressants. It doesn’t go into detail on any of these, but notes that a range of treatments exist. It then links you to other partner sites to learn more.
Contrast this with the fibromyalgia page on NPS MedicineWise, which is a site more focused on clinicians (i.e. doctors, allied health professionals). The article is considerably more detailed and the treatment/management section covers the different medications, the various aggravating conditions that should be managed, and the various non-pharmacological approaches that can be used.
So should you use consumer-focused sites, or clinician focused sites?
Consumer focused sites use less medical jargon and are generally easier and quicker to read. They are an excellent starting point and may be sufficient for you to understand your illness/medication well enough to manage it. I would always recommend consumer focused sites as a starting point for non-medically or health trained individuals.
There are however a number of reasons why you might explore clinician focused sites.
- If you want more detailed information on your condition, for example, more information on what might be causing it, or the effectiveness of different treatments.
- If you feel there might be treatment options that your doctor is not exploring
- If you are trying to take more control over your illness by understanding all the various self-management things you could be trying
- If you are interested in reading some of the research on your particular health condition or treatment
Note that without medical or health training, you might find clinician-focused sites much harder to understand, and potentially more anxiety provoking. Clinician focused sites are typically much harder to navigate, because they assume a level of understanding of health conditions and treatment. They commonly link to research papers and they also talk in more frank terms about health conditions.
I recommend that if you are accessing these sites, you do so in collaboration with your doctor. To give a very personal example, I recommended some clinician-focused sites to my doctor when I was getting treated for irritable bowel syndrome. The result was us trying a new medication which was quite effective.
So what are some good clinician focused health websites?
https://www.nps.org.au/ – has both clinician and consumer focused information – more focused on medications but does include information about different conditions
https://www.nice.org.uk/ – a UK site devoted to providing clinicians with most up-to-date evidence-based guidance on managing different conditions.
https://www.clinicalguidelines.gov.au/ – a search engine and repository of clinical practice guidance for health professionals in Australia.
Getting reliable and trustworthy health information online is absolutely possible if you stick to a few core sites – healthdirect is honestly your best starting point.
There are legitimate reasons why you might expand your health information search to sites that are used by health professionals, and my own experience was that there was an improvement in the management of my health. However, unless you are medically trained, I recommend you do this in close collaboration with your doctor.
Done this way, you get the best of both worlds: the regularly updated information from these websites, combined with the clinical experience of your treating health professional.
Want to comment on this article, or ask me a question about the health and well-being services available to you as a student? Feel free to comment below, abuse me on Twitter (@Dr_Furber), contact me on Skype (search for ‘eMental Health Project Officer Gareth’), or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)