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Internists to Write Patients "Prescriptions for Information"

ACP Foundation and National Library of Medicine Launch National Consumer Information Program For Internists and Their Patients

NEW ORLEANS (April 22, 2004) Think of doctors' prescriptions, and you probably think pills. But a new program of the American College of Physicians Foundation (ACPF) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) encourages the nation's internists to write a prescription for a trustworthy Web site of free medical information, www.MedlinePlus.gov.

"Part of an internist's job is to explain illnesses and diagnoses to their patients," said Whitney W. Addington, MD, chair of the ACP Foundation Board of Trustees. "NLM's MedlinePlus provides authoritative, user-friendly and commercial-free information that doctors can use to supplement information provided in the office or clinic."

ACP's internist members will be encouraged to "prescribe" information for their patients from MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov) using a special "prescription pad" during office visits.

"Physicians have always known that an informed patient who takes an active role is a 'better' patient," noted NLM Director Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD. "We believe that both patients and their doctors will welcome this additional medical tool -- good medical information -- in their continuing efforts to provide good health care."

Traditionally, physicians have supplemented discussion of a diagnosis or condition in the office with brochures that are rarely tailored to each patient's special needs. Today, 80 percent of U.S. adults online use the Internet to find health information, and most say it helps them get better health care, according to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Dr. Addington pointed out that health content on the Net ranges from clinical research to pharmaceutical product sales promotions, to endorsements of herbal and mineral supplements and everything in between. "It's not easy to determine the credibility or validity of online health information. MedlinePlus is a Web site physicians use, and it's also consumer friendly for patients. It's a site we can recommend to our patients without reservations."

MedlinePlus has information on more than 650 diseases and conditions, and links to pre-formulated searches of the MEDLINE database to allow viewers to find references to the latest professional articles on health topics. Under each topic, patients will find information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, current news stories, research studies, clinical trials, helpful graphics, and interactive tutorials. MedlinePlus accepts no advertising and most information is available in Spanish.

The project launches nationally on April 22, 2004, the opening day of the American College of Physicians Annual Session in New Orleans. According to Dr. Addington, the joint project has been tested in Georgia and Iowa by more than 500 ACP internists and their patients. Pre- and post-tests found that 97 percent of the participating internists made information referrals, with 59 percent using the prescription pads for information provided by ACPF and NLM. Twenty percent of participating physicians also reported an increase in patients bringing Internet information to the office visit.

Internists who participated in the pilot programs said that MedlinePlus empowers patients (54 percent), explains difficult concepts and procedures (43 percent), and improves patient-physician communication (42 percent). The project was modified for the third stage of the pilot program in Virginia in January 2004 to partner with Virginia librarians as an additional resource to help patients use MedlinePlus.

The ACPF and NLM program provides participating internists with a poster, bookmarks, and a supply of prescription pads on which they can write in a disease or condition and advise patients how to look up the information on MedlinePlus. The NLM's National Network of Libraries of Medicine will help patients who have questions about access to MedlinePlus.

The ACP Foundation exists to support the mission of the American College of Physicians and to improve the health of the public through the creation and support of programs in education, research, service, and professionalism. A nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, the ACP Foundation works with other health organizations, the public, and corporations.

The National Library of Medicine is part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the nation's largest medical library.

Notes to Editor:

To contact Whitney Addington, MD, of the ACP Foundation, call Susan Anderson at 215-351-2653 or 1-800-523-1546, ext. 2653. From April 21-24, call the ACP Annual Session Press Office in New Orleans, 504-670-4030.

To contact Donald Lindberg, MD, at NLM, call 301-496-6221.

To schedule interviews with participating physicians or patients, contact the ACPF or NLM press contacts listed above.

A video news release has been developed to highlight the NLM-ACP Foundation program. It will be released on Thursday, April 22, 2004, at 10:00-10:30 a.m. EDT and 13:30-14:00 p.m. EDT (1:30 to 2:00 pm EDT). Satellite: TELSTAR (IA) 5. Transponder 14 [C] band. Downlink freq: 3980 H. Status: INQUIRY

Susan C. Anderson, 800-523-1546, ext. 2653; sanderson@acponline.org
Kathy Cravedi, 301-594-7170 or 240-418-7491 (cell); kcravedi@nlm.nih.gov

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