Say goodbye to long waits, hello to WebMD

Brianne Carlon

Credit: Ben Breier

Feeling a little woozy? Pesky headaches keep coming back? Perhaps notice a spot that was not there before?

The chances of fitting a doctor appointment in between classes and work are slim to none, and sitting in the health center waiting room forever does not sound like any fun.

Why not diagnose yourself – with a little help from your friend the Internet?

WebMD Health,, is a Web site created to “help consumers take an active role in managing their health by providing objective health care and lifestyle information,” according to the Web site.

“WebMD is an extremely valuable resource,” said family physician Thomas Albani, who practices in Boardman. However, he stressed it should not be used as a substitute for a doctor.

“Take it as a piece of information and put it together with what a doctor says,” he said. “People can read any amount of medical information, but without clinical expertise it may not be possible to correctly diagnose someone.”

The site offers news articles and features that assist users in making informed decisions about treatment options, health risks and health care providers.

The WebMD Health home page has five departments: WebMD Today, Member Services, Medical Information, Health & Wellness and Who We Are. Within these departments, the following areas are covered in depth:

ƒ-S Diseases and conditions

ƒ-S Analyzing symptoms

ƒ-S Locating physicians

ƒ-S Storing individual health care information

ƒ-S Receiving periodic e-newsletters on topics of individual interest

ƒ-S Enrolling in interactive courses and participating in online communities.

Kristy Schoeck, junior justice studies major, used the site to analyze symptoms she had when she discovered a spider bite on her leg.

“It was a red bump with black around it,” she said. “I also had hives and flu-like symptoms, like throwing up.”

Schoeck decided to use WebMD to see what she should do.

“I put in my symptoms and it told me to seek medical attention immediately because the bite could be poisonous,” she said. “The doctor said that the bite was fine and did not look poisonous. But I did have a virus and that is what was causing me to throw up, but the two were not linked.”

The site allows the user to check symptoms by narrowing them down by picking skin, head/neck, eyes/ears, nose/mouth, chest, back, arm/hand, abdomen, female pelvis, buttocks or leg/foot. Some areas are broken down after choosing a larger area.

“The site was very helpful and easy to navigate,” Schoeck said. “I would use it again.”

WebMD Health also offers a section for health care professionals.

“It offers a lot of other resources as well, such as statistics,” Albani said. “They separate it from the consumer sections so it is not too scary, though.”

However, with all the good it offers, the site can be a bad thing if used wrong, Albani said.

“One small – ‘Oh my gosh! That must mean I have all these terrible problems!’ and the site is no longer useful,” he said.

Even though the site told Schoeck to seek immediate medical attention, she said she did not get nervous.

“It didn’t scare me, but I am a laid-back person,” she said. “But I can see how it would have the potential to scare some people.”

“Using it a little to get questions to ask your doctor is fine, but do not take it as a final word, “Albani said.

Contact features reporter Brianne Carlon at [email protected].