June 16, 2005

Informed Patients

Laura Landro’s column in the Wall Street Journal on 6/15/05 highlighted an upcoming service called patientINFORM, which will create a one-stop shop for summaries of medical journal articles. Our research has shown that millions of Americans will welcome this access to industrial-strength health information. The first three organizations sponsoring it are the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association, which have versions of the new service on their sites now. Landro reports that two dozen publishers are participating – but not the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the 800-pound gorillas of the genre. Their position is that they already have a consumer-oriented page so there is no need to make it any easier for people to find their article summaries.

I was curious about the differences between the services, so I pretended to be searching for diabetes research. I first went to the ADA’s site and found their patientINFORM page which had 15 articles just about blood glucose control. Then I went to JAMA and found their collection of 106 diabetes articles, but the full text versions are available only to subscribers and the collection does not include a link to any “Patient Pages” that I could see. I did stumble on a PDF of the JAMA Patient Page associated with a 2002 special issue on diabetes, helpfully entitled, “The ABCs of Diabetes.” It’s one page long – quite a bit different from the content available to subscribers or to internet users savvy enough to go to the patientINFORM sites.