Recently, I noticed that my appetite wasn’t what it usually is and I wondered why. Against my own good judgment, I decided to search for “poor appetite symptoms” on WebMD, a well respected health site. I was surprised: on WebMD, I read that I run the risk of passing on a rare genetic disorder, ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, to my children and grandchildren. I decided that the diagnosis probably was wrong, but the thought was enough to cause a brief panic attack!
Our recent article on cyberchondria warned against using the Internet for self-diagnosis (35 percent of US adults have fessed up to being “online diagnosers”). But that’s no excuse to throw your computer out the window and re-enter the Dark Ages. From mobile apps to content-rich websites, electronic health resources and tools can improve your health literacy, keeping you empowered and helping you to stay healthier.
Here’s a list of our favorite eHealth resources – explore them and prepare to drop some knowledge at your next doctor’s appointment.
Health Management Tools
Personal Health Records (PHRs)
A PHR is a tool you can use to track and manage all your health information in one place, including doctor visits, test results, diagnoses, and prescriptions. The best part is that you can share this record with anyone, including your doctor, a specialist, your pharmacist and family members. Using and sharing your PHR can help you and medical professionals work as a team – especially when it comes to meds; mixing certain medications can be dangerous and even fatal for seniors, and a PHR lets everyone know what you’ve been prescribed.
For many of us, getting older comes with a handful of pills, all in different shapes, sizes and regimens.
For tablets/phones Pillboxie ($0.99; iPhone/iPod Touch) and Pillbox HD ($1.99; iPad) let you select from a list of meds the ones you take regularly; both apps help you schedule a regimen based on drug interactions, mealtimes, etc; and feature an audio alert that reminds you exactly which one to take when. Because the apps represent each med visually (for example, you schedule alerts by dropping a “pill” into your “pillbox”), they’re easy to manage.
Reliable Health Information
Research and Clinical Trials
From Alzheimer’s to cancer, on the National Institute on Aging site you can learn about the latest breakthroughs that leaders in aging research are reporting. Ask your doctor about what you’ve learned to make sure you are getting the best care currently available. Want to get involved with the research process itself? Here you also can find and sign up for a clinical trial on aging.
Symptoms and Conditions
If you can’t resist using the Internet for diagnostic purposes, try MedlinePlus.gov. Filter the site index by “senior” to learn about health issues specifically affecting older adults. If visual learning is your preference, check out the Video & Cool Tools tab for interactive learning modules.
Diseases of Aging
The CDC has compiled an extensive list of health information for seniors. Click on any of the links in this list of common senior diseases and conditions, and you’ll get access to basic info, state programs for the afflicted, recent statistics and more. Since many of the listed resources are intended for practitioners and researchers, the writing can seem a bit dry and highbrow – but you can be sure that you’re getting reliable information.
Launched in 2010, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is the first to compile LGBT-specific resources. Issues covered are wide-ranging, from medical conditions to how ageism might affect the health care that you receive.
New mobile and electronic health resources are constantly being developed, enabling patients to take control of their health. Stay knowledgeable by keeping a pulse on the tools and resources that are available to you.
Add to the comments board below by sharing which resources you’ve found helpful.