There’s a new resource for a vital e-patient skill: reading health news responsibly. It helps us be smarter before we bring new findings to the attention of other patients and our providers – not to mention smarter for our own benefit.
When “Doc Tom” Ferguson defined “e-patient” in the 1990s, “Educated” wasn’t one of his e’s. (He said “empowered, engaged, equipped, enabled.”) But today educated is increasingly true: The internet makes it feasible for ordinary people to become seriously educated. And this new site will help.
Health News Review is easily the best website around for training e-patients how to scrutinize health news. They regularly review news stories about health issues, and give concrete details on why some articles are great and others stink – sometimes dangerously so. I consider it a “must read” site.
Today site editor Gary Schwitzer launched a new version of the site, with a section dedicated to the ten things he says should be covered in every responsible story about a treatment:
- How often do the claimed benefits occur?
- How often do harms occur?
- How strong is the evidence?
- Is the condition it treats exaggerated?
- Are there alternative options?
- Is this really a new approach?
- Is it available to me?
- What’s the total cost of the treatment being covered?
- Who’s promoting it?
- Do they have a conflict of interest?
Each page gives the criterion, says why it’s important, and gives some examples. Each will also have interviews with patients and physicians. For starters, most of them have a short (extremely informal) video clip from an impromptu interview he did with me at Gunther Eysenbach’s Medicine 2.0 conference in Toronto last September.
My personal thanks to Gary for this great service, and to the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making for sponsoring this terrific free public service. We are all empowered and enabled by it.