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Online Health Resources - Health Care On The Internet, Medication Online, The Medical Data Revolution

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Prior to the Internet, finding the latest information on a health issue typically required access to a university or medical library and specialized knowledge of the subject. Most medical studies and information existed in expensive books and journals, which were generally written for those with formal training. The Internet gave rise to a plethora of accessible, informative Web sites that average consumers could comprehend. The rise of online pharmacies also allowed people the convenience of ordering and receiving prescription drugs from home. However, these conveniences have come with their share of problems. Online pharmacies that sell counterfeit medications run rampant on the Internet as of 2005, and some Americans rely on self-diagnosis when they should be consulting a medical professional. Overall, however, Americans' experiences with online health care information have been positive. According to Susannah Fox and Deborah Fallows in Internet Health Resources (Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 2003), roughly eight out of ten online Americans who searched for health information found what they were looking for at least most of the time in 2002. Eighty to ninety percent of people who sought health resources on the Web appreciated the convenience, the breadth of information, and the anonymity of online medical sources.

The Internet has benefited those who work in health-care fields as well. The Internet allows medical researchers to share information as never before. Enormous databases accessible on the Internet contain references to nearly all published medical papers, sparing researchers the misery of hunting through print indexes. The Internet also provides the perfect medium for posting health-care research data, such as statistics on disease prevalence, and research organizations have posted data from thousands of disease studies. The availability of the research data has fostered a new era of scientific cooperation wherein medical results from labs halfway around the world can be brought together with a click of a mouse.

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