How Administrators Can Navigate the Glut of Consumer Health Information Websites


With so many consumer health websites, clinicians can find it difficult to reassure patients that whatever their health concerns are, they are on the right track. With the launch of its own information resource by prescription drug discount provider GoodRx, providers now have another opportunity to help patients understand their health.

The concept of health literacy has evolved over the years and initially referred to the skills or abilities that enable people to understand health information. Now, meaning is understood not only as personal but organizational, which places the onus on healthcare providers to clearly communicate critical facts to patients.

GoodRx aims to add to that knowledge base, said Thomas Goetz, head of research and communications at GoodRx and responsible for the new website, GoodRx Health.

GoodRx Health articles are primarily written by clinicians, are subject to editorial standards, and come from trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, Goetz said. The new web resource will support GoodRx’s core business of collecting fees when consumers use its prescription drug coupons at the pharmacy, he said.

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“Our opportunity is to increase clinical care,” Goetz said. “The best possible situation is where doctors recommend GoodRx not only to save on prescriptions, but also as a source of knowledge and research.”

General health information does not go far, and as more and more information reaches patients, providers must be prepared to contextualize it according to each person’s individual health needs.

Frank Federico, vice president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, sees himself as an informed healthcare consumer, but even he has fallen prey to misunderstanding a study on one of his prescriptions.

“I remember contacting my cardiologist and telling him, ‘I want to stop this drug because the long-term mortality is high,” and he had to explain to me why I had to take this drug, ”Federico said. “There has to be this ability to communicate and understand, and also not diminish the fact that people have been doing research.”
Patients are expected to collect their own information and bring it to clinical settings these days. Health systems and clinicians can ease the burden on patients by helping them get the evidence-based information they need and understand it

“When people report high quality communication with their health care providers, they are actually less likely to search the Internet and watch YouTube videos,” said Aisha Langford, assistant professor at the Grossman School of Medicine from New York University. Department of Population Health, which studies health communication. “We believe this is in part because if you have good communication with your healthcare team, some of your concerns and questions will have been answered at the medical meeting or shortly after your visit.”

Providers can facilitate interactions with patients by communicating test results through patient portals in a way that makes them understandable to patients, which could give them less reason to research on their own and fall into the holes rabbit on the Internet, for example. Providers can recommend trusted sources to help patients avoid unnecessary, irrelevant, and false information. Many health care systems, especially academic medical centers, even have their own health information websites that clinicians can promote.

“A lot of groups like to tailor their information to their region, and that’s why you can see multiple organizations with good information,” Langford said.

This is all important because it can be confusing for consumers to differentiate between legitimate content, misinformation, and advertising that is not based on fact.

“You get into other issues of whether people can really make sense of the information. It takes a fair amount of common sense to know what is advertising and what is useful and appropriate for you,” said Helen Osbourne, health literacy consultant for health care providers.

When patients are in a healthcare setting, asking them to repeat their care instructions can improve adherence and give patients more confidence that they understand what to do.

This is essential because patients rarely ask follow-up questions, Federico said. “You’d say, ‘Can you explain to me how you’re going to heal your wound for next week? Walk me step by step, ”then the patient broadcasts it, so that you can verify that you understand without the patient feeling bad for saying,“ I really don’t know what you just said ” “, did he declare.


About Stuart M. McFarland

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