Doctors often warn patients to avoid Internet searches of their medical conditions because there’s so much junk science that turn up on web searches. But there are certainly reliable websites out there that can provide valuable information like the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute, which provide up-to-date resources for patients on a variety of cancers.
The main drawback of such sites, however, is that you may need to spend hours wading through the ton of information they contain to find answers to specific questions. Enter a free website called Medivizor, which allows patients to input information about their cancer, heart disease, or diabetes diagnosis as well as their age, gender, body weight, and other health factors in order to get a personalized report online with recommended links for further reading.
“An algorithm uses the mini-medical profile and cuts through hundreds of clinical reports to select the most relevant ones to provide to the patient or caregiver,” said Tal Givoly, CEO and co-founder of Medivizor that launched last August. “The summary, written on a 10th grade level, provides key insights about the condition and treatments and fine print things like conflicting information in the science.”
Physicians, researchers, and other medical advisors previously culled through the research and wrote summaries for each condition that are updated every few months.
A similar website called UpToDate charges patients and caregivers about $45 for a 30-day subscription and is largely aimed at physicians with language filled with medical jargon that can be hard for a non-medical professional to decipher. It does, though, contain information on hundreds of conditions, whereas Medivizor only provides information on the five most common kinds of cancers — such as breast and prostate — and on diabetes, heart disease, and infertility.
After getting diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Lee Kauffman, 57, said he found Medivizor useful to help him explore future treatment options. “My diabetes is really well controlled now with just the drug metformin,” said the Boston resident, “but I wanted to know if there were more effective drugs that also have a low risk of side effects just in case I need them later on.”
He’s planning on taking the information he found on the site to his endocrinologist.
Dr. Matthew Katz, medical director of radiation oncology at Lowell General Hospital Cancer Center, said he frequently recommends Medivizor to cancer patients who want more information on their diagnosis beyond the brochures provided by his office. “It provides reliable information for engaged patients who want to go deeper,” he said, and allows them to share information they find with him, like the full text of a journal article.
Katz, who isn’t involved with Medivizor, emphasized that the site isn’t for everyone, and doctors should carefully weigh how much information is too much for an individual patient before recommending it.
While Givoly said the site will expand over the next few years to include other conditions, the financial aspects — of how the company will make money on the free site that has no paid ads — haven’t yet been determined.Deborah Kotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.