The List: 8 Patient Education Web Sites Worth Recommending

March 1, 2009

Your patients are going online to get their health questions answered. Might as well point them to sites they can trust. Here’s a good start.


Chances are that when your patients have questions about their health they turn to the Internet for answers. But without knowing where to look for credible guidance, their journey down the health information highway can be a bumpy ride. The Web is full of gruesome pictures, exaggerated symptoms, extreme treatments, and alarmist testimonials. Your patients may come in claiming they have diphtheria when it’s just allergy season.

Here are eight credible, user-friendly health sites you can feel good about recommending to your patients:

1. National Institutes of Health

This Web site gives easy-to-read, accurate descriptions of conditions, causes, symptoms, and treatments by linking to trusted Web sites for specific information. For instance, someone looking up bone cancer would be linked to the bone cancer page on the National Cancer Institute Web site. Lots of Spanish-language materials available here as well.

2. American Diabetes Association

Not only gives extensive information about diabetes, its treatments, and ongoing research, but it also offers patients advice on nutrition and meal planning, fitness regimes, and lifestyle changes, and connects them with support groups in their communities. Also check out the ADA-sponsored, interactive nutrition site - My Food Advisor - which allows patients to create meal plans, find recipes, and research foods they can eat.

3. Mayo Clinic

Offers extensive disease/condition information, and goes a step further with its comprehensive and helpful “Treatment Decisions” section, Q&A section called “Ask a Specialist,” and a plethora of interactive quizzes, self-assessments, and calculators under “Health Tools.”

4. Drugs.com

Patients can read about their prescriptions or research the various drugs available for their condition. This site provides an easy-to-use drug interactions checker, and an innovative pill identification wizard that allows patients to enter the shape, color, and imprint of their mystery pill and view photographs of potential matches to identify the medication.

5. MedlinePlus

As well as offering patients information on wellness, diseases, drugs, and other health topics, this site has an extensive searchable medical encyclopedia with cool pictures and diagrams and a medical dictionary that gives spelling and pronunciation tips. It also offers health information in more than 40 languages.

6. Cleveland Clinic

Provides well-organized information on diseases, treatments, procedures, drugs, and current research. What sets this site apart is its use of multimedia formats: check out the very cool interactive tools, video health talks, online health chats, podcasts, and webcasts.

7. Family Doctor.org

Sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians, this site presents broader information on the patient experience, not only offering information on conditions and treatments, but tips for patients on choosing a doctor, understanding medical bills, navigating insurance coverage, and advocating for themselves. Also provides helpful information on children’s health and development issues, from toilet training to dog bites to acne.

8. HeartHub

The American Heart Association’s patient portal on heart disease supplies information, tools, videos, recipes, exercise tips, and expert advice for patients with heart disease and their families. Patients will dig Heart360, an interactive way to manage their heart health by tracking their medications, blood pressure, weight, exercise, and diet.

Abigail Beckel is managing editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at abigail.beckel@cmpmedica.com.

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Physicians Practice.