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Do Online/Healthcare Portals Really Help?
By Themedica on March 12, 2008 1:41 PM |
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There has been an immense explosion of health related information on the Internet and otherwise. Consequently, people have become health conscious and actively seek out ways to remain healthy. While health services have improved and people are more informed, the costs of medical expenses are rising rapidly at an annual annual rate ranging between 10–15%. As a result more often than not a layman on a look out for information about his or her medical condition or in general, types in a keyword on a favorite search engine and gets thousands of websites providing information on various topics.

The brighter side of it is that information is quickly available and there’s hordes of it, however there’s no guarantee that all that one reads up on the Internet is true. The situation becomes even more serious when the information concerns your personal health. Misinformation about health issues and acting on it can make your condition worse.
themedica This brings us to the realization that there are many who claim to provide useful health information, however, unless it’s trustworthy you’ve got more to lose than gain.

Considering that you land up at a credible health portal, you can get loads of information about various aspects. You could explore health topics about conditions, diseases and wellness. If you’ve already got a prescription from a doctor or you’ve bought an over-the-counter medicine then you can find information about the drugs, herbs and supplements. Many portals offer encyclopedic information in an easy to comprehend format providing insight to patients through pictures, diagrams and animations.

Sometimes you may find that you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition that you may have never heard about (and find it to be a tongue twister too!), that’s when the dictionary like features of a portal help you to decipher spellings and definitions of medical words. The other crucial aspects of medical information are the current health news and press announcements, as the medical science is characterized by rapid advances in knowledge.

Furthermore, it sometimes happens that specialty medics exist in your area offering the services that you need but you aren't aware of their presence. The Health directory services help you with information about the doctors, dentists, services and hospitals etc, to help you make a choice about consultation. Through directories, not only do you find out about the medical services but also libraries, organizations, international sites can be accessed through quality portals.

So far so good, but how about the validity of the information you get through health portals? Much of the criticism about health portals borders around the validity of information. At times people ignore who is responsible for the content, and only read up the information that’s been published. It can be harmful to ignore a medical literature’s authorship. An entity providing such information could be a government, a non-profit institution, a professional organization, a health system, a commercial organization or even an individual. Not only do the motives of these sources vary, but so does the authenticity of their claims. themedica When a person is ill he or she is stressed out and desperate to get out of his or her challenging situation. At the same time there isn't a dearth of websites that make claims about a "breakthrough" treatments or a "secret ingredient" that cures. Some even make use of sensational writing styles to convince the readers into buying. It's sad but true that an ill person might actually buy into such claims without establishing their reliability.
Science is cumulative and medical science is no exception, new findings override the older ones. However, a layman looking for information on a portal might not pay enough attention the currency of the information, rather take in whatever is doled out to him or her. Furthermore, there might be websites that publish content to promote their services rather than to neutrally provide information. Hence, their content may just be as good or as bad as informative advertising.

Last but certainly not the least are the privacy concerns. Users would come across many health portals that ask for information either for registration, newsletter subscription. As a result, this user information could be used for unsolicited sales calls etc. making it a pain for an unprepared user. So their arises a need for users to first educate themselves of the privacy policy of a website and only then part with their personal details.

On the one hand health portals house all the potential in the world to inform and educate users to actually help them with their condition. On the other "quakery" health portals and the like have all the potential to seriously harm, if people act on their advice. Hence, health portals can help or harm based on the users’ prudence as patients or information seekers.
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