Being an Empowered Patient in the Information Age

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide
  • We live in a world that offers us more options than ever before. Because of the Internet and ease of access to information, we now can often diagnose ourselves and know our treatment choices before we ever set foot into a doctor’s office. Is that a good thing? I’m not quite sure. On the downside, I think that access to information often prevents people from seeking the medical treatment and advice that they could benefit from. On the upside, we are now armed with our own information and research.

    So what’s a patient to do? Where’s the balance between being educated without becoming overly self-reliant? It’s a fine line, to be sure. I personally think the best answer comes from taking full and complete advantage of both sides of the system. Use your own information, but also utilize the services of your health care professionals.
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    When searching for information on your own, allow Google to become your best friend. However, and I can’t stress this enough, take note of the source of all your information.

    Message boards or the personal Web site of one individual’s story can give you great insight into someone’s everyday life with a certain medical condition. Remember, though, that those are stories from only one perspective: they present a snapshot in time, but not an entire picture. Because one treatment did or did not work for someone else, it does not mean that same treatment will or will not work for you.

    There are many Web sites where you can find valid medical information.

    - Large hospitals, especially teaching hospitals, often have information on their Web site about the medical conditions that they specialize in.

    - The National Institutes of Health is also great resource for fact sheets about many health conditions. You can see their information on the urinary system here.

    - Most companies have a Web site about their product or drug. While these Web sites can answer questions you may have concerning a specific treatment option, they obviously and understandably don’t provide a very comprehensive overview of all the available treatments.

    - There are nonprofit organizations in existence providing information about almost every health condition, disease, and disability that you can think of. Keep in mind that while there are many legitimate organizations, some exist only to promote a single point of view or treatment option, or are run by a single, uninformed individual. When looking for health information from a nonprofit organization, research how long the organization has been in existence, and look at who is on their board of directors and/or advisory board – you want to make sure that medical professionals are reviewing the educational materials.

    The information age is the age of empowerment. Using the Internet, you have the ability to become educated about your options. Remember, however, that doctors who are knowledgeable about and interested in treating incontinence have priceless experience with various treatment options and their effects on their patients. Use your research as a launching pad for a two-way conversation with your health care professional about your specific condition and available the options.
Published On: January 12, 2007