Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 129 / MAY 1991 / PAGE 77

Answers to questions about medicine and health. (column)
by George Campbell

Health is a key issue for all of us. Regular checkups and careful living are essential to maintain ourselves. Sometimes, however, we have questions about health issues and need answers. Where can we turn?

Books are one solution, but popular medical guides often don't offer enough information, and they aren't interactive. For PC users with modems, there's a better way to get answers about health. A wealth of online resources are available on any health issue.

More and more users are signing up to take advantage of GEnie's flat-rate Star Services. Among those services is GEnie's Medical Roundtable. At no extra charge, you can use the bulletin board area of this roundtable to get the answers you need.

To access this area, just type medical at any GEnie prompt. Once you're in the roundtable, choose the Medical Bulletin Board option on the menu. The bulletin board is divided into 15 categories, ranging from Clinical Consulting and AIDS to Medical Ethics and Ask the Doctor. Within each of these categories, you'll find hundreds of topics of discussion. You can read messages or ask your own questions.

While you can't expect to use this service as a substitute for regular medical care, it's a terrific place to go for any medical questions you might have. If you ask a question in one of the bulletin board areas, you can be sure of a quick and accurate response, usually from a physician or other health professional.

Just browsing through the topic list is fascinating. You'll find discussions on topics ranging from cancer and chiropractors to x-ray safety and even mundane topics like foot odor.

Getting all of that information costs no more than using any GEnie Star Service. However, you can also access the Medical Roundtable's file library at GEnie's normal hourly rates. Here you'll find files ranging from collections of medical papers to medicine-related programs for your PC.

If you're a GEnie user, take a few minutes the next time you're online to explore the Medical Roundtable. You'll be glad you did.

GEnie offers other medical services, most at an additional cost. To get a list of them, give the INDEX command at any GEnie prompt; then use medicine as a search keyword.

While CompuServe doesn't offer the low-cost flat-rate service that makes GEnie so popular, its medical forums are extensive. CompuServe users seeking health information should enter the command GO GOODHEALTH at any CompuServe prompt to reach the Health and Fitness forum.

This forum offers a message area where you can ask questions or read discussions on almost any health-related issue. There's a special section for teenagers, a section for drug and alcohol abuse questions, and sections on mental health, nutrition, and many other specialized areas.

As with GEnie, hundreds of files and programs are also available for downloading in the software library. Ranging from transcripts of online conferences to a guide for selecting a therapist, these files are just one more reason to get online.

CompuServe also offers other medicine-related services. There's a forum for diabetics (enter the command GO DIABETES), collections of articles on AIDS (GO AIDSNEWS), a cancer forum (GO CANCER), a forum for people with disabilities (GO DISABILITIES), and a forum on human sexuality (GO HUMAN). Each forum offers the same mix of BBS-like messages, a library of files, and real-time conferences.

Finally, at an extra cost, you can access several databases to search for articles and other information from medical journals. These services, however, are designed for medical professionals, and the costs are prohibitively high.

For a list of forums and health-related areas, give the command GO INDEX at any CompuServe prompt; then search for topics using the word medicine as a keyword.

If you don't use commercial online services, you still have plenty of options for online medical information. You'll find that hundreds of BBSs across the country specialize in medical issues. Wherever you live, there's likely to be a medically oriented BBS nearby.

Edward Del Grosso, M.D., operates a BBS that acts as a clearinghouse for the medical BBS community. His BBS, the Black Bag (302-731-1998), is a rich source of information on other online systems as well as being an excellent health-oriented BBS itself Read Bulletin H, which lists hundreds of active health-oriented systems nationwide-most charge nothing for the service, and many of these are run by physicians.

As you explore the world of online medical information, remember that although these BBSs are a source of information to help you participate in your own health care, none can substitute for the care and advice of your personal physician.