Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Searching For Quality In Healthcare - Studying A Study And Beyond


Health information is everywhere these days!

Have a weird pain in your side? Google it. Want to know what to expect from a new medication? Google it. Curious as to the best treatment for whooping cough? Google it.

As we've made our way into the 21st century our definition of 'seeking advice from your doctor' has went from getting it while sitting in the exam room to obtaining it via the internet. People are searching for answers, and they're finding them too. But what's to believe and not to believe? How is one to find quality health information via the internet?

Whether you're a healthcare professional or a lay person, I hope to offer you some reliable, quality health resources I've found useful in my quest for trusted health information. My goal as a medical professional is, and always has been, to seek out the most effective, safest, and least costly approaches in treating the healthcare needs of others. With that being said, I have always been, and will always be, adamant about using evidence-based scientific and medical literature free of commercial bias, if at all humanly possible to achieve this.

Many of the resources below are focused primarily on conventional medicine. While I often advocate for the use of lifestyle medicine (diet and exercise) over conventional medicine—due to its superior efficacy and safety profile when treating most chronic diseases—I also believe it's important to highlight the benefits and/or risks of conventional treatments so both patients and providers can make informed decisions regarding their health and how to achieve their goals in regards to this. In addition, the resources below will offer medical professionals some very valuable tools to help them in their everyday clinical practices.

****Please note - I've done my best to include sites that are specifically NOT funded by commercial entities (drug companies, medical device manufacturers, insurance companies, etc.), if at all possible, to avoid financial biases which may occur due to the nature of the information provided on these sites. If there is any potential for conflict of interest I've noted this in the descriptions provided.****

Trusted Healthcare Resources and Websites


1)  NutritionFacts.org
- A not-for-profit site developed by Dr. Michael Greger, M.D. providing nutrition and health-related information via short videos and blog articles.


2)  The Cochrane Collaboration
- An independent, not-for-profit organization providing several thousand systemic review articles (Cochrane Reviews) to aid public policy makers, healthcare practitioners, and patients in making informed decisions regarding various treatment interventions in regards to human health.


3)  TheNNT
- A site created by a group of physicians aimed at providing actual success rates (absolute risk reduction or 'numbers needed to treat') on drug and interventional treatment studies as they relate to variety of medical conditions and disease states.


4)  Pubmed
- Searchable database of the scientific and biomedical literature provided by the United States National Library Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health. ***Note - Pubmed contains articles that are both privately funded (for-profit entities) and publicly funded (via taxpayer grant money). A diligent review of these funding sources for each piece of literature should be kept in mind when evaluating the results of the studies. In other words, follow the money. Potential bias may or may not be in play depending on who funded the study.***


5)  Trip Database
- The Trip Database is literally the Google of the scientific world. It is the internet's premier clinical search engine for evidenced-based information. You can quickly and easily search for studies, articles, images, videos, educational courses, and even patient information leaflets with the Trip Database. ***Note - Although technically a commercial entity Trip operates like a not-for-profit company stating that "Pharmaceutical companies do use our services...", but "they do not have any editorial say in Trip".***

6)  Therapeutics Initiative (TI)
- An independent organization established by The University of British Colombia to provide up-to-date, evidence-based, practical information on prescription drug therapy for pharmacists and physicians which remain free of vested interests. TI is separate from the government, pharmaceutical industry, and any other vested interest groups.

7)  The Medical Letter
- A non-profit organization that publishes critical appraisals of new prescription drugs and comparative reviews of previously approved drugs for healthcare professionals. The Medical Letter strictly prohibits funding from pharmaceutical companies or commercial entities and survives solely on subscription fees.

8)  WorstPills.org
- A site created by Public Citizen, a non-profit, non-partisan public interest group advocating researched-based, system-wide changes in healthcare policy. Their primary focus is working to ban or relabel unsafe or ineffective drugs and to encourage greater transparency and accountability in the drug approval process.

9)  Lab Tests Online
- A peer-reviewed, patient-centered resource for patients, caregivers, and medical professionals to better understand clinical and diagnostic lab tests for a broad range of conditions and diseases. ***Note - Although noncommercial in nature, this site is financially supported by some commercial entities which are listed on the homepage.***

10)  GlobalRPh
- A site created by pharmacist David McAuley, Pharm.D. geared towards healthcare clinicians, in particular clinical pharmacists, providing disease-state management algorithms and multifaceted calculators to aid in the providing of medical and pharmacy services.

11)  MDCalc
- A site created by Dr. Graham Walker, M.D. geared towards healthcare clinicians, in particular physicians, providing disease-state management algorithms and medical calculators.


Summary


I hope you've found this list to be useful. It is by no means an all-inclusive list. If you know of any other reputable, patient-centered, trusted health sites that do not exist with profit as their #1 goal then please feel free to share them by leaving a comment.

For additional resources specifically related to cancer care treatment please see my previous article - Cancer Answers - Treatment Options For Fighting Cancer.







Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

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by Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist

Check out Dustin Rudolph's book The Empty Medicine Cabinet to start your journey towards better health. This step-by-step guide leads you through many of today's common chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more), giving you the facts on foods versus medications in treating these medical conditions. The book also contains an easy-to-follow guide on how to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as a part of an overall lifestyle change, producing the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Hurry and get your copy today!

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