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Medical Research 101

Sources Of Medical Information To Consider

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Your Doctor Or Hospital

  • Your doctor's office or hospital/treatment facility can be one of the best information sources and should serve as your starting point. 
  • Your doctor should be able to provide books, brochures, and audio or videotapes. In addition, hospitals often offer instructional seminars and educational classes geared toward specific diagnoses and/or treatments.

A Pharmacist

  • Pharmacists are often overlooked sources for information about prescription and over-the-counter drugs. In addition to answering questions, they may be able to supply you with literature. For information about choosing a pharmacist, click here.

Disease Specific Non Profit Organizations

  • All major diseases have nonprofit organizations that provide an enormous amount of valuable information about diagnosis and treatment options, as well as other social services. Most such organizations have their own very comprehensive websites.
  • Once you obtain the information you're looking for, consider subscribing to the newsletters, if any, of such sites. They will keep you to date about the latest developments. (To locate a disease specific organization of interest, click here.)

Support Groups

  • A support group is a great place to obtain information from others who have been diagnosed with your condition. In fact, doctors have told us that members of support groups are sometimes more up-to-date on the course of a condition and the results of various treatments than the doctors themselves.
  • Ask your doctor, hospital or social worker about local support groups for your condition.
  • NOTE:
    • Particularly with medical information you learn from another lay person, keep in mind the adage: Trust but verify.
    • For information about support groups, including how to find one that works for you, click here.

The Federal Government

A number of federal agencies offer free, comprehensive treatment guidelines and a wealth of practical information about a variety of conditions:

  • National Health Information Center in Washington D.C. is a health information referral service putting health professionals and consumers in touch with those organizations that are best suited to answer their questions. NHIC refers to more than a thousand organizations providing medical information. Call 800.644.6627 or offsite link
  • National Guideline Clearinghouse is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and makes clinical practice guidelines available online for many conditions. The site is geared toward healthcare providers and medical researchers but can be accessed by anyone. The information is written in medical terminology so you may need an interpretation from your doctor. Providing your doctor with the information will insure that she is aware of the latest treatment guidelines. See offsite link
  • Medline Plus is a division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The Medline Plus Internet site provides a wealth of information as well as links to medical publications such as journals and periodicals. See offsite link 
  • National Library of Medicine call 888.346.3656 or offsite link
  • Food and Drug Administration call 888.463.6332 or offsite link 
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality call 301.594.1364 or offsite link
  • Centers for Disease Co

Medical Research On The Internet

The Internet contains an enormous amount of medical information and medical and health related sites, and you can't beat the convenience factor. In fact, according to an on-line survey, about 70% of web-savvy women said it is easier to get health information online than from their own doctors.

Use caution when evaluating information you find on the internet.

  • Be aware of the source of the information and any possible bias. When you are on a site, click on "About Us" to learn about the site's sponsor.
  • Government and disease specific non-profit organizations are a good starting point because they are most likely to have accurate and reliable information. In addition to the links provided in the federal government section above, try offsite link. It allows you to search by topic and provides links to virtually every health related government organization online.
  • Look for symbols from organizations that certify a site has met the organization's standards, such as from HON (Health On The Net Foundation) or URAC (Utilization Review Accreditation Commision).
  • Check the date of the last revision to make certain the information is up-to-date. If you want to insure that you are receiving the latest information, consider requesting Internet newsletters or choose to receive e-mails that will inform you wen a site topic has been updated. If you have not disclosed your condition, do not use an e-mail address that can be accessed by someone who does not know.

To learn how to do medical research on the internet, click here.  For information about services that will do the research for you, click here.

Medical Research In Libraries

  • Search medical books, journals and other publications about your condition.
  • In many libraries, the research librarians will do a computer search of medical databases for your condition or direct you to the appropriate journals. Some libraries will print or photo copy an article for you (often for a fee.) Note that many libraries now provide free Internet access for the public.
  • If your library does not have the information you are looking for, call the National Network of Libraries of Medicine at 800.338.7657. 

Hired Medical Research Assistance

  • If you feel that you don't have the time or are not up to the task of doing your own medical research you may choose to hire a research assistant. For information about research services, click here
  • Also consider calling your local medical school, public or university library, to inquire about research assistance.

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