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National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Robert Mehnert
Kathy Cravedi

Florida Physicians to Write Prescriptions for Patient Information
Florida Congressman C.W. Bill Young
Joins National Library of Medicine,
American Medical Association Foundation,
and Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation
to Launch Health Information Program for Physicians, their Patients, and Caregivers

Dunedin, Florida — After a doctor sees a patient, he or she often prescribes medications. But what if a doctor also wants to direct a patient to up-to-date, reliable, consumer-friendly information about a health concern? Under a pilot program to be launched in Florida on Feb. 14, physicians from six counties are being encouraged to refer their patients to MedlinePlus, a consumer health site of the National Institutes of Health.

The American Medical Association Foundation (AMAF) and the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation have teamed up with the National Library of Medicine (NLM), an arm of the National Institutes of Health, to encourage Florida physicians to point patients to first-rate online health information in NLM’s MedlinePlus database (www.medlineplus.gov), and Fisher Center Foundation’s Web site (www.alzinfo.org). The pilot program, called the “Information Rx” project, will be launched in six Florida counties with a demonstration hosted by Rep. C. W. Bill Young (R-FL).

“Part of a physician’s job is to explain illnesses, diagnoses, and treatment to their patients,” said Cecil Wilson, M.D., member of the American Medical Association 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 or clinic.”

The kickoff will take place in Dunedin, Florida at 10:30 a.m., Feb. 14, at the William Hale Senior Activity Center, 330 Douglas Avenue. This event will feature remarks by:

  • The Honorable C.W. Bill Young, Congressman, (R-FL)
  • The Honorable John Doglione, Mayor, City of Dunedin
  • Bentley Lipscomb, Florida State Director of the AARP
  • Cecil Wilson, M.D., American Medical Association Board of Trustees, Chicago, IL
  • William Netzer, Ph.D., Researcher, Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Disease, Rockefeller University, NY
  • Ms. Mary Asta, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, NY
  • Dennis Agliano, M.D., President, Florida Medical Association
  • Marcos Joppert, M.D., President of the Pinellas Medical Society
  • Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., Director, NLM
  • Florida residents and Alzheimer’s caregivers

In addition, Dennis Agliano, M.D., will write the first information prescription for Dunedin Representative C.W. Bill Young. Dr. Agliano will also be on hand after the program to write information prescriptions for members of the press. Refreshments will be served at the program’s conclusion.

Why do the NLM, the Fisher Center Foundation, and the AMA Foundation consider this project so important?

“Physicians have always known that an informed patient who takes an active role is a ‘better’ patient,” notes NLM Director Lindberg. “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.”

With contents culled from the best public and private health sites on the Internet, MedlinePlus has information on more than 700 health topics. Under each, patients will find information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, current news stories, research studies, clinical trials, helpful graphics and even video tutorials. There are detailed but easy-to-read information on thousands of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, too. MedlinePlus is also available in Spanish.

As more people are living longer, the number of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is increasing steadily and the pace will quicken as the baby boomer generation ages. This is why NLM and the Fisher Center Foundation have joined forces to encourage doctors to steer their patients to MedlinePlus.gov and AlzInfo.org.

“It is so important for caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients to understand the disease and where they can go for help. Alzinfo.org and MedlinePlus.gov help those taking this difficult journey. Alzheimer’s care can be overwhelming at times, and too often patients and family members leave the doctor’s office with unanswered questions. The ‘Information Rx” initiative seeks to close the information gap, providing comprehensive information resources to those who need it,” said Mary Asta, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.

Today, the majority of U.S. adults online — 80 percent — use the Net to find health information. Most users say it helps them obtain better health care, a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports. Nearly 70 percent of patients nationwide add they will pay serious attention to a Web site recommended by their physician.

The Information Rx Project is already well received by doctors and their patients. Preliminary findings from ongoing pilot projects with Internists in Iowa, Georgia, and Virginia reveal that 97 percent of participating physicians make referrals to MedlinePlus and the overwhelming majority use it daily. Internists who participated in the pilot programs said MedlinePlus empowers patients (54 percent), explains difficult concepts and procedures (43 percent), and improves patient-physician communication (42 percent).

“Used properly, the Internet can be another important healthcare tool just like the biopsy, the x-ray, and the electrocardiogram,” observed Congressman C.W. Bill Young, a long-time advocate for Alzheimer’s research and education. “That is why I hope that our Florida doctors will take the lead in making use of the ‘Health Information Prescription’ program, directing Floridians eager for good consumer health information to the gold standard, MedlinePlus. I think they’ll find that, used in conjunction with their doctor’s good care, information can be powerful medicine.”

Overall, the program aims to significantly improve health literacy and patient education by combining high quality sources of consumer health and Alzheimer's disease information with the interpersonal intervention and encouragement of a trusted medical provider. After testing of this pilot program, a greatly expanded national initiative is expected to follow.

The National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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