Hang 10: Surfing the disease management Web

DSM’s top 10 list of useful sites on the Internet

There’s no shortage of disease state management resources on the World Wide Web. The problem is making sense of them all. For example, Yahoo, a general purpose Web directory, lists more than 10,000 consumer- and clinician-oriented disease sites. It’s easy to see how beginners attempting to surf the Web could drown in the flood of available information.

The following is a short list of Web sites relevant to the needs of disease managers, providing information on quality, pharmaceuticals, patient education, health news, and up-to-date scientific literature. (For a more complete listing of disease management Web sites, see our disease management yellow pages, inserted in this issue.) As you visit the sites described below, place "bookmarks" with your browser so that you can find them again quickly.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) in Alexandria, VA, offers a multitude of resources on its Web site for both clinicians and patients with diabetes: http://www.diabetes.org/custom.asp. Included are abstracts and guidelines for the ADA’s professional and consumer publications, as well as links to the association’s "Professional to Professional Forums," which, according to the site, "provide an on-line communication vehicle for the diabetes health care professionals to discuss sixteen different diabetes-related categories." The site also features an extensive, annotated list of links to other Web sites related to diabetes.

The American Thoracic Society, the clinical arm of the American Lung Association in New York, features patient education materials, and news reports on research innovations, congressional actions relevant to respiratory care professionals, and information about the society’s training programs in pulmonary medicine at its Web site: http://www.thoracic.org/newinfo.html. The site also contains selected links to various other pulmonary sites, including other medical societies and government agencies.

• With its user-friendly interface and colorful graphics, Healthfinder might not look like an official government Web site, but it is. Serving as a gateway for consumer health and human services information, Healthfinder provides a huge array of links to on-line journals and publications, as well as health information clearinghouses, databases, support and self-help groups, and the Web sites of health-related government agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Most useful information can be found by clicking the "cool" link on Healthfinder’s main page at http://www.healthfinder.gov.

MD Gateway is a slick new commercial clearinghouse of clinical resources for physicians and other health professionals. Best accessed by a browser capable of supporting frames, MD Gateway provides extensive alphabetically listed links to health-related associations, periodicals, hospitals, managed care organizations, and pharmaceutical companies. It also lists selected upcoming conferences specific to certain disease states. MD Gateway’s address is http://www.mdgateway.com.

Medscape, another large clearinghouse of medical and other health-related information, features separate pages for a variety of different disease states, including AIDS, cardiology, oncology, and respiratory care. It also features new peer-reviewed journal articles daily on a variety of disorders. Unlike some on-line journals, Medscape provides the full text of such articles. The site also contains health news, a medical dictionary, and a "drug search" feature. You can find Medscape at http://www.medscape.com.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) in Washington, DC. NCQA began to accredit managed care organizations six years ago and has become increasingly important as the role of managed care has grown in this decade. If you have Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set (HEDIS) responsibilities, NCQA is a good site to visit regularly at http://www.ncqa.org. You can find 17 national HEDIS averages on-line there. In addition, NCQA provides summary reports on accreditation for almost 200 health plans. National averages for the performance of health plans on aspects of care such as childhood immunization and prenatal care are available, too. You can order full HEDIS information on paper or CD-ROM from the site.

• The Web site of the National Institutes of Health, (NIH) based in Bethesda, MD, provides a calendar of NIH events, an employee directory, and press releases and special reports from the agency. Also accessible from the site is information on NIH’s extramural research and training programs, including application kits for funding and NIH’s grant policy. In addition, the site contains some research news and links to the various organizations that make up NIH, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, also of Bethesda, MD. NIH’s Web address is http://www.nih.gov.

National Jewish Online, the Web site of National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, is an excellent source of education materials for patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and a number of other lung-related ailments. The site also features some medical literature about various conditions and information about upcoming conferences and continuing education programs. The site’s address is http://www.respmed.com.

The Pharmaceutical Information Network, or PharmInfoNet, is a massive Web site cataloguing a wide variety of information on various drug topics. Designed and built by VirSci Corporation of Levittown, PA, the site has original feature articles on issues in pharmaceutical management. It also provides separate, disease-specific pages for cancer, diabetes, asthma, and other conditions, as well as discussion groups and a "PharmMall" listing links to pharmaceutical companies, consultants, and medical publishers. You can find PharmInfoNet at http://www.pharminfo.com.

Sapien Health Network’s Web site is a patient education site focused at health care consumers suffering from chronic diseases. Patients click on a link corresponding to one of eight disease groups (asthma, breast cancer, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart disease, hepatitis C, obesity, prostate cancer, or women’s health place), then complete a detailed on-line questionnaire.

After completing the questionnaire, the patient has access to three sections: the library, which features clinical information from journals, a medical dictionary, and a drug database; the newsstand, which compiles news articles specific to the various diseases listed at the site; and an area featuring message boards and chat rooms. Although this page can be an excellent resource for keeping patients educated about their conditions, be aware that Sapien Health Network maintains its financing for the Web site by selling the data it collects from the initial questionnaire. The Web address is http://www.shn.net.