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Surprising Science

How to Use the Web for Health Advice

When researching medical treatments online, Web users have to be discerning and think like consumers, not patients, to avoid scams and commercially motivated advice.

What’s the Latest Development?

When health communication specialist Andrew Schorr was diagnosed with leukemia, he sought advice from online message boards. Convinced that they saved his life, he was inspired to write a how-to guide for those seeking medical advice on the Internet called “The Web-Savvy Patient”. By trolling patient communities, Schorr learned the name of the doctor who would eventually treat him and who offered advice wildly different from the first professional Schorr consulted. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Schorr’s book is a no-nonsense guide to finding reliable medical information online, says The New York Times. It “discusses the kinds of useful information that can be gleaned online, at no cost, by anyone with a serious medical condition, and describes the hallmarks of bogus advice and commercially sponsored information that may or may not be helpful.” One of the book’s valuable pieces of advice is to create a personal electronic medical record on the Internet that can readily be made available to healthcare professionals. 


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