lost at seaDo your patients get the most out of the internet when it comes to caring for themselves? Let’s talk about how YOU can direct them to useful websites so they don’t get swallowed in a Google of information.

Working with patients to engage in self-management of their chronic illness is one of the biggest challenges to health care providers today. Those patients who self-educate and work toward self-management have better outcomes and more control over the symptoms of their chronic illnesses, but the question remains, “How do you get a patient to educate themselves and be more knowledgeable about their illness?” In the last decade, the Internet has provided powerful tools for patients to engage in self-management and this blog post will highlight just a few user-friendly sites toward which you may direct your patients. If you can direct a patient to a specific site, they may feel less overwhelmed and more inclined to research on their own.

Below I describe two sites (one disease-specific and one for overall health) that are filled with current and reputable material.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (or COPD) affects 6.3% of the United States population. A set of resources, provided by the COPD Foundation (http://www.copdfoundation.org), is available now for you to give your patients. If you have patients who prefer to read, watch, or interact with health education materials, the COPD Foundation has provided material in each way. For example, do you have patients who respond to being given paper in their hand to read? Try printing and handing out the Slim Skinny Reference Guide (http://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/Educational-Materials/Downloads.aspx#SSRG), available in ten languages, to address ten of the most popular topics in COPD care such as, medicines, oxygen therapy, and exercise.  Do you have patients waiting in a room where you can show videos? Try giving them the option to view videos (http://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/For-Patients-Caregivers/Educational-Video-Series.aspx) to educate themselves about COPD with lung illustrations and explanations of the limitations that come with the illness. One of the keys to patient engagement includes leading them to interesting and easy-to-use resources. The COPD Foundation provides resources that are visually appealing and patient-centered.

Another useful site for self-management of disease is provided free of charge, in many languages, and in many modes (i.e. print and video) by the US government. This website is called MedlinePlus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus). In the center of the home page is a tab titled “seniors,” where you can direct your patients to self-educate on popular topics such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Arthritis, Exercise for Seniors, Medicare, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, Nutrition for Seniors, and Skin Aging. Click on “Skin Aging,” for example, and a “Start Here” button appears beneath the introduction as a good starting point for a patient. Or, scroll to the bottom for a list of patient handouts available in English and Spanish. MedlinePlus provides videos, interactive tools, and handouts in multiple languages and for many age groups including seniors.

The world wide web is a giant sea of information that can be vetted by health care providers and passed on to patients to help them engage in self-management of their illness.

What are some of your favorite websites to direct patients?

Please share them and discuss below under Comments or join us online for our Weekly Discussion on Aging (http://slurl.com/secondlife/UTMB%20Island%20Alpha/143/227/26).

Our guest blogger this week is Meredith Masel, PhD, MSW. She is at the Oliver Center for Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare.

Image Source: http://jackbrummet.blogspot.com/2012/01/poem-lost-at-sea.html