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A Checkup of Online Health Sites
by
Posted On March 1, 2007
Consumers in need of reliable health information have some good sites available to them—if they know where to look. The average consumer, however, would probably just do a quick Google search. For reliable content, there's the Health Information page from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (http://health.nih.gov) that serves as the central point of access to all consumer information. Another trusted government site is MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus). The MayoClinic.com site has been a favorite of mine for years. And there are a number of other vertical health information sites, such as WebMD. Recently, however, there's been a flood of new resources popping up. With the growing interest in all things related to health, diet, lifestyle, and medicine, we're really seeing the online health space heating up.

Here's an overview of some of the new resources I've noticed. EverydayHealth.com came out of its beta version. Healthline.com launched a new Symptom Search feature. A startup from Steve Case, Revolution Health, is providing previews of its new site. TauMed is a recently launched search engine and health portal. (Disclaimer—I have not done extensive testing on these sites so I can't provide recommendations or comparisons.)

The creator of the EverydayHealth.com portal, Waterfront Media, is the New York City-based publisher of many self-help and fitness sites, such as SouthBeachDiet.com. EverydayHealth.com focuses on online health management. The site offers more than 40 condition centers. New users fill out the 3-Minute Health Check, a questionnaire that provides a health score and a personalized evaluation. Users can also register to receive a health action plan and can customize the site based on their health concerns and individual medical history. It has a group of physician specialists who each monitor and participate in a condition center, answering questions and providing advice. The site offers health news, a video library, special recipes, free newsletters, and message boards.

Healthline was founded in 1999 as YourDoctor.com and was relaunched as Healthline Networks in 2005. In late 2005, the company launched its first consumer-facing service, the Healthline.com Web site. Healthline offers a taxonomy-driven, guided search platform, which was developed with physicians and is maintained by a team of medical informatics specialists. It includes a terminology database of more than 1 million medical terms and consumer-friendly synonyms, as well as 70,000 medical concepts that include diseases, conditions, causes, symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, and other medically relevant attributes. The site offers about 200 health channels, directories of diseases/conditions, drugs, and diagnostic tests and features a network of bloggers.

Healthline.com has just launched a new service, Symptom Search, which covers more than 3,500 symptoms and 900 diseases. The company said that other symptom checkers offer a limited ability to combine symptoms and can only research one-tenth the number of symptoms and one-fifth the number of possible causes currently covered by Healthline's product.

Healthline also offers HealthLinks, which is currently available to publishers and content hosts as a licensed service, allowing them to link words and phrases in any source material, including health news stories, blog posts, and articles. Licensees may use the service to link to their own content and resources, or they may choose to link to health and medical information licensed by Healthline from medical reference publishers such as A.D.A.M., Thomson Gale, ProQuest, and Cerner Multum. One of Healthline's first HealthLinks licensees is TeleVox, a software provider that is using HealthLinks to enhance its online patient-provider lab test results service called LabCalls.

RevolutionHealth.com said it's not just another health site. It aims to be "the online destination" that offers a "people-powered" approach to health. Here's what's available.

  • Access to trustworthy health content from sources such as the Mayo Clinic.
  • Search for doctors, hospitals, and other health providers.
  • Rate your doctor, and see what others say.
  • Try the risk assessment tools, calculators, and trackers.
  • Ask health questions, and get answers from other people.
  • Fill out a profile, and invite others into your circle.

Revolution Health also offers a membership service (free for a year to those who participate in the preview) that will offer answers to questions, help in dealing with insurance, appointment scheduling, and other services.

TauMed (www.taumed.com) calls itself a free virtual health community where anyone can search for personalized health and medical information, get breaking news, ask questions, share information, and do much more. Search results come from a variety of trusted online sources and include some licensed premium content. The company said the results are screened and optimized by a team of physicians and software professionals for relevancy. TauMed uses technology from Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), which includes data mining and contextual analysis. The site launched in December 2006 and is still in beta.

And, just as I was finishing this, I read on ResourceShelf.com about an interesting mashup health site—it combines current data with maps. HEALTHmap (www.healthmap.org) was launched in September 2006 by infectious disease researchers at the Children's Hospital Informatics Program in Boston. Need to know where avian flu, salmonella, or dengue fever have been popping up? A quick view of HEALTHmap shows you where more than 50 diseases have been reported around the world, who is reporting, and how "hot" an outbreak is, based on the number of reports. Users can drill down by content and city or narrow by disease and read what has been reported in the last 30 days.

So, here's to happy searching and healthy living.


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


Comments Add A Comment
Posted By David Spano11/12/2009 9:56:23 PM

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Posted By Michelle Madden9/5/2008 3:47:15 PM

Thank you for providing this resource, as I have found some very useful websites that were listed on this page. If you are open to a suggestion for a link, I thought I would suggest ( http://citehealth.com/ ). We provide reports for people researching their health care providers quality and communities at no cost. As an example, here is a report on a Boston hospital: http://citehealth.com/hospitals/massachusetts/cities/boston/massachusetts-general-hospital
Posted By Saumil Mehta5/2/2007 4:00:22 AM

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We've built a site that is able to automatically create topic pages around *any* health topic. Please feel free to check out our site. You'll find that our coverage of health information exceeds that of any publisher on the web.

FYI: Try out an obscure term like "rooster comb injection" on any major health information site. Then try www.kosmix.com. The results are plain as day.

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