Internists to Write Patients Prescriptions for Information|
ACP Foundation and National Library of Medicine Launch National Consumer Information Program for Internists and Their Patients
New Orleans Think of doctors' prescriptions, and
you probably think pills. But a new program encourages the nation's
internists to write a prescription from a trustworthy Web site of
free medical information, www.medlineplus.gov.
The program is jointly sponsored by the American College of Physicians
Foundation (ACPF) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), an
arm of the National Institutes of Health.
"Part of an internist's job is to explain illnesses and diagnoses
to their patients," said Whitney W. Addington, MD, chair of
the ACP Foundation Board of Trustees. "NLM's MedlinePlus provides
authoritative, user-friendly and commercial-free information that
doctors can use to supplement information provided in the office
ACP's 115,000 internist members will be encouraged to "prescribe"
information for their patients from MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov)
using a special "prescription pad" during office visits.
"Physicians have always known that an informed patient who
takes an active role is a 'better' patient," noted NLM Director
Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD. "We believe that both patients and
their doctors will welcome this additional medical tool good medical
information in their continuing efforts to provide good health care."
Traditionally, physicians have supplemented discussion of a diagnosis
or condition in the office with brochures that are rarely tailored
to each patient's special needs. Today, the majority of U.S. adults
online 80 percent use the Internet to find health information, and
most say it helps them get better health care, according to a study
by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Dr. Addington pointed out that health content on the Net ranges
from clinical research to pharmaceutical product sales promotions,
to endorsements of herbal and mineral supplements and everything
in between. "It's not easy to determine the credibility or
validity of online health information," he said. "MedlinePlus
is a Web site physicians use, and it's also consumer friendly for
patients. It's a site we can recommend to our patients without reservations."
MedlinePlus has information on more than 650 diseases and conditions,
and links to pre-formulated searches of the MEDLINE database to
allow viewers to find references to the latest professional articles
on health topics. Under each topic, patients will find information
on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, current news stories, research
studies, clinical trials, helpful graphics, and interactive tutorials.
MedlinePlus accepts no advertising and most information is available
The project is being launched nationally on April 22, 2004, the
opening day of the American College of Physicians Annual Session
in New Orleans. According to Dr. Addington, the joint project has
been tested in Georgia and Iowa by more than 500 ACP internists
and their patients. Pre- and post-tests found that 97 percent of
the participating internists made information referrals, with 59
percent using the prescription pads for information provided by
ACPF and NLM. Twenty percent of participating physicians also reported
an increase in patients bringing Internet information to the office
Internists who participated in the pilot programs said that MedlinePlus
empowers patients (54 percent), explains difficult concepts and
procedures (43 percent), and improves patient-physician communication
(42 percent). The project was modified for the third stage of the
pilot program in Virginia in March 2004 to partner with Virginia
librarians as an additional resource to help patients use MedlinePlus.
The ACPF and NLM program provides participating internists with
a poster, bookmarks, and a supply of prescription pads on which
the physician can write in a disease or condition and advise patients
how to look up the information on MedlinePlus. The NLM's National
Network of Libraries of Medicine will help patients who have questions
about access to MedlinePlus.
The ACP Foundation exists to support the mission of the American
College of Physicians and to improve the health of the public through
the creation and support of programs in education, research, service,
and professionalism. A nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia,
the ACP Foundation works with other health organizations, the public,
The National Library of Medicine is part of the National Institutes
of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. It is the nation's largest medical library.