Patients are often surprised to learn that some of the most useful health and medical information they’ll discover on the Web can be found through health and medical blogs and wikis. These types of sites are set up so anyone with access to the Internet can contribute, and make their thoughts and ideas public.
Here’s more specific information about what blogs and wikis are, and how they can help you.
What You Can Learn from Health and Medical Blogs
"Blog" is short for "web log" and is simply the name for an online diary or journal, or the activity of writing thoughts in that journal. Anyone can set one up and can write anything they care to about any topic.
Doctors blog. Nurses blog. Pharmacists blog. Advocates blog. So do patients and their loved ones. While there may be some facts included, for the most part blogs consist of opinions and experiences.
Use blogs to learn about symptoms, side effects, new treatments, alternative therapies, good doctors, other patients, useful equipment, costs, consumerism, current issues in health or medical care or dozens of other matters related to your health.
But -- an important warning! Just be sure to verify new information by finding a credible source to back it up, and discussing it with your doctor. You don't know anything about the people who write the information, and you don't know how accurate it is. If it sounds interesting to you, then verify it to be sure it can also be useful.
If you want to see what a blog looks like, you can find the blog yours truly writes three or four times each week right here at About.com. You'll find all guides at About.com blog frequently. You can find their blog posts on their individual sites.
What You Can Learn from Wikis
A wiki (pronounced "wi-kee") is a public encyclopedia that anyone may contribute to, edit or update. Those who post to a wiki are usually experts on the topic addressed. Wikis are different from blogs in that the information posted is supposed to be factual, with much less emphasis on opinion.
Some wikis are monitored to be sure the information posted is correct or true. However, there is no guarantee all the information is accurate. So just like a blog, you should always verify information found in a wiki.
Use wikis to find the names of experts, updated research results, tables and diagrams, links to more information, or questions or controversies about treatments, diagnoses or drugs. Wikis may contain more current information than standard websites. For that reason, the information may be difficult to verify unless you can find news items that relate the information you've found in the wiki, too.
How to Find Helpful Blogs and Wikis
Just like websites have search engines that can find them, there are search engines for blogs and wikis, too. The best way to find what you are looking for is to go to one of these search engines, then input the keywords you might use for a website. You might use the name of your diagnosis, the name of a treatment, or the body system or body part your medical problem affects. Then include the term "blog" or the term "wiki" with it. Using those terms seems to return much more accurate results, even in their own search engines.
Here are some blog search engines:
Here are some wikis and wiki search engines:
If you are a patient or caregiver, or a health professional, why not start a blog of your own? No doubt you've had experiences, triumphs and frustrations you would like to share. Sharing your own experiences, thoughts and ideas might just help other patients, and that's empowering, too. You can do so through online support groups, or through a blog of your own.
Return to the master list of types of health and medical information resources you can use in your research.
... and don't forget to make sure the information you use is credible and reliable.