I jokingly tell my patients that I am consulting with Dr. Google when I go online in the exam room to find information, but in fact I rarely use the Google search engine to access health care information. The reason is that although Google finds lots of great resources for each search, it also finds lots of popular sites with an agenda to push rather than unbiased information to dispense. To the unsophisticated reader it can be pretty difficult to tell a real authority site from a site that has a very official name and appearance but contains dangerously erroneous information put forth as facts.
When my daughter was in an entrepreneurship program at the University of Portland (e-scholars) I told her of my frustrations with having easy one click access to the best free online medical information I use in the office every day. Together we put up a web site called Exam Room Favorites that is designed to be an easy to use home page for physicians. I use it daily at the office to access sites like the CDC Traveler’s Health site, Safe Fetus, and to find handouts for patients at the AFP and Mayo Clinic sites. It is much handier than using a bookmarking site like Delicious or iGoogle because I can set it up as a home page for our whole EMR, and does not require each physician to set up their own favorites in each exam room. It also has a Google search bar and an Epocrates online search bar for when these resources are needed. I find Epocrates online faster than the iPhone app I use when away from the computer.
I encourage users to develop their own means of accessing reliable health information online, accessing resources they have a good reason to believe are reliable. If Exam Room Favorites works for you, feel free to use it. If not figure out a better process, but don’t just think that you can search Dr Google and rely on the results to be more than a popularity contest for the search term you use. If any of you have favorite sites for reliable resources leave comments to let us all know. The resources page of this health blog has lots of good resources too.