Getting a Second Opinion, Online

Mj 618_348_getting a second opinion online
Mutlu Kurtbas / Getty Images

Many of us google our medical concerns, despite the pitfalls. Unreliable or out-of-date advice and conflicts of interest with content paid for by pharmaceutical companies are common. “The Internet, for the most part, is not trustworthy,” says Dr. David Newman, director of clinical research at Mount Sinai and co-creator of health site “There are a lot of land mines out there.” But there are valuable medical resources on the Web, too. Here are three to consult:

Healthtap Talk to Docs App
In a live link with one of a network of 50,000 doctors, HealthTap’s Talk to Docs app offers instant answers to pressing medical questions. We asked if we should get treated for a discolored sprained ankle and were told, “there is no direct relation between the amount of black and blue and the degree of damage” – advice that could save a trip to the physician. Remarkably, more than 10,000 user comments claim the app saved their lives. [$1; iPhoneAndroid]

Having doubts about taking a drug you were prescribed? You should see another doctor, but before doing so, the NNT can give you relevant clinical studies and side effects to inform your second opinion. Enter a remedy – for instance, “antibiotics for acute bronchitis” – and the site tells you whether the prescription is beneficial or has unclear impacts, no benefit, or demonstrated harm in studies (in this case, NNT advises not to take the antibiotics, since they are questionably effective and one in 37 people experiences side effects). []

A consortium of doctors reviews the latest medical evidence and posts it to this site. The result is an online encyclopedia of current science on a wide range of conditions and treatments, from prostate cancer to toothaches. Overviews of the conditions are free, but access to more detailed information, designed for clinicians, requires a subscription. []

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