University Library Offers Health Reference Services

Searcher writes "The Salt Lake City Tribune Reports Americans once turned to their doctors with health-related questions -- now they ask Jeeves or Google. The problem is that online consultations may not be so reliable, say librarians at the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah.
A free service offered by the library aims to help."

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Dr. Google

I use the internet for health questions because I have no health insurance and therefore can't call up my doctor to ask questions. I'm lucky that I have the skills to evaluate the information to some extent. I don't know that I would feel comfortable asking my friendly neighborhood librarian about my health concerns. However, I know from experience that there are patrons out there that would love to tell you all about their various physical ailments!

Re:Dr. Google

If this is (I'm guessing) part of a virtual reference program, I'd assume that they are telling people how to research their questions more effectively as opposed to giving actual medical advice.

A good health info site

is the medlineplus medical encyclopedia -- or just google for "medlineplus symptom/condition/disease name" and you usually get a decent read on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Problem is the Internet can be a hypochondriac's dream so always do a check up if necessary, it's worth the cost.

Re:Dr. Google

Oh, I'm sure, but I still don't think I'd be comfortable on either side of the desk with that :-) Kudos to them though!

Re:A good health info site

The NLM had a booth at ALA and they gave a really good presentation on Medline Plus. MedlinePlus even has sections for low literacy users. Since we are already paying for it with out tax dollars I say we use it as much as possible.

Re:Dr. Google

Having no insurance does not mean you can't have a primary care physician. As an RN I hear that all the time, but every single physician I have ever discussed unfunded patients with says that they would be more than happy to work with patients who can't afford to pay the bill all at once.


If you can't find a physician that will work with you please let me know. While I don't know physicians all over the country I'm sure I know a nurse near you who knows a physician. Nurses have a grape vine too!


Not having health insurance is not a bar to having a physician, although many people would lead us to believe that it is.


Please also remember that there are other licensed medical professionals of whom you can ask questions. Pharmacists and nurses are wonderful information conduits. Pharmacists are ubiquitous and the ones I know who work in retail pharmacies are very happy to answer questions (though they prefer you come to the counter rather than call). They both say that it doesn't matter to them if you get a prescription filled there or not. One of them remarked that they love to answer 'good' questions that should be directed to a pharmacist, it makes them feel more than a pill counter.

Nursing practice includes patient education. Many hospitals have ask a nurse serviuces, while the information from these sources may be limited because of liability concerns they certainly can get you pointed in the right direction and offer physician referrals if needed.


Please everyone remember that the one most responsible for your health is you. Working with a physician is a two way street, you must be honest with your physician, ask questions and share your concerns. Don't be the kind of patient doctors despise, be honest, don't wait until the last minute to call or see the doctor, don't call for prescription refills Saturday at 11PM. Be the kind of patient that doctors love to see, follow the advice the physician gives you, take the medications given you as directed, don't pressure the doc for drugs (antibiotics for colds, pain meds for minor conditions) that you simply want but don't need, follow up as directed. If a physician treats you for free as some occasionally do a thank you note will be talked about all week, whereas a check from the insurance company for $8.32 for a followup rates little comment.

Easy-to-read and Spanish versions

Thanks for pointing out the low-literacy features md! I just had a browse and found some pretty good stuff. Many of the links on that part of the site are interactive, more visual tutorials, and there's also quite a bit of information available in Spanish. This is probably more along the lines of what what many patrons want (and/or are able to understand) when they are asking for health information.

Multiple source of health information

I guess health information in any format can be useful as an additional source of information, whether this is found in a health library, public library, bookshop, or the internet. But it does not replace the primary source of information, the professional advice of the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, specialist, etc. Additionally, it is important to get a second opinion from another doctor, nurse, pharmacist, specialist, etc. Similarly, one may read more than one book or online source. The important thing is to get health information from various sources.

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