My 5 Favorite Consumer Health Resources on MedlinePlus

MedlinePlus is, without a doubt, my favorite online consumer health resource.  MedlinePlus is the main consumer health portal created by the National Library of Medicine, and it has strict criteria to ensure that it only links to and publishes reliable, accessible, and high quality health information. The site offers a variety of tools for both the general public and healthcare professionals who work with the public, ranging from a medical encyclopedia to videos and multilingual patient information.

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Homepage of MedinePlus.

Here’s a quick list of my features on MedlinePlus:

  • Health Topics – Currently over 1000 Health Topics pages are available on MedlinePlus, and they cover “symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for over 1000 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues.”  The Health Topics pages include a basic summary about the health condition, followed by an organized list of links to relevant websites related to the condition.  Navigate through the list of links using a menu at the top of the page, with sections on latest news, diagnosis and tests, treatment, genetics, health check tools, clinical trials (links to ClinicalTrials.gov), journal articles (links to PubMed), find an expert, patient handouts, and much more.  The Health Topics pages also link to information on the health topic in multiple languages and related medical encyclopedia articles.
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Health Topics page on skin cancer from MedlinePlus.
  • Drugs and Supplements – Browse lists of generic or brand-name drugs and medical supplements to find information on “side effects, dosage, special precautions, and more.”  The pages on individual drugs and supplements include all information on one page (which can be easily printed), in consumer-friendly language.
  • Medical Encyclopedia – Browse through over 4,000 articles from the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia on a broad variety of “diseases, tests, symptoms, injuries, and surgeries.”  The medical encyclopedia pages include links to other related encyclopedia articles and health topics, as well as medical photographs and illustrations.
  • Tutorials on Understanding Medical Words and Evaluating Health Information – The Videos and Tools section of MedlinePlus includes many useful links to health videos, health check tools, and games, but I want to highlight two tutorials available on MedlinePlus which tackle topics important to most people who aren’t healthcare professionals.  The “Understanding Medical Words” tutorial can be used to gain a better understanding of medical terminology and improve communication between patients and doctors, while the “Evaluating Health Information” tutorial teaches viewers how to judge the reliability of information found on health-related websites.
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Interactive tutorial “Understanding Medical Words.”

MedlinePlus has a number of additional features, like the latest health news and links to organizations and directories.  The site is an indispensable resource for the general public and any professional who provides health information to the public, due to its reliability, ease of searching, and wide variety of topics.

Learning Goals!

My main goal in starting this blog is to chronicle my continuing education efforts, especially my work learning about consumer health, data analysis and visualization.  Here’s a quick list of my current learning goals:

  • Earn the Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) from the Medical Library Association.
  • Learn to use a variety of data visualization and analysis software, such as Tableau.
  • Take free data visualization/big data online courses.
  • Learn how to code and create visualizations with R.

I’ve started working towards the CHIS by taking free online courses available through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Learn about free upcoming classes under the Professional Development section of their website.