Health care Web sites have seen an increase in hits lately because they are offering more interactive features and have become reliable resources for medical information, the Baltimore Sun reports.
For example, the U.S. National Library of Medicine's Web site saw an increase in hits to its brain cancer topics after Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Similarly, Optum Health's Web site saw an increase in traffic when it announced new features, such as a fertility calculator.
John Swapceinski, co-founder of the site RateMDs.com, said that with more than half a million physicians being rated since its launch, "hopes are high that within a few more years we will have ratings for essentially every doctor in the" U.S.
Michael Smith, chief medial editor at WebMD, noted that a decade ago, physicians were reluctant to tell patients to use the Internet, but now there are credible online resources that enable patients to be better prepared for their physician visit.
Armando Sardi, director of the Institute for Cancer Care at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center, said he encourages the use of health care Web sites because they allow people to access medical information that is not readily available to the general public.
Most of the Web sites include disclaimers that advise users not to consider the information on the sites a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment (Burris, Baltimore Sun, 6/12).