HealthWeb Navigator

In 2014, Dr. Mark A. Kelley, a faculty member of Harvard Medical School, developed the idea for HealthWeb Navigator while serving as a Harvard Advanced Leadership fellow. Partnering with NeedyMeds in 2016, HealthWeb Navigator has since published hundreds of website reviews. Today, HealthWeb Navigator is launching the full version of its collection of health website reviews written by doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

“Patients are more informed now than ever before,” said HealthWeb Navigator founder Mark Kelley, M.D. “Unfortunately, many people make major healthcare decisions based on something they read online. The least we in the medical community can do is guide them to the best sources.”

 

A 2013 survey found that the average American spends an hour every week looking for health information online. In fact, it’s among the top ten most popular web activities, as common as checking the weather forecast or reading the news.

But studies show that health information available to web users is often inaccurate, complex, or hard to use. Searching Google for something as common as “headache,” for example, returns tens of millions of results in less than a second. The first few pages alone contain warnings about migraines, poisoning, stroke, and brain tumors. There is now a term for the anxiety caused by online self-diagnosis: “cyberchondria.”

 

HWN-logo2HealthWeb Navigator’s reviews assess the accuracy, credibility, and usability of each website in its growing collection. Visitors can search for specific health topics to find trustworthy websites, or they can verify sites they already use.

“We want to eliminate the guesswork,” Kelley added. “Our expert reviewers show you which websites are credible and why.”

 

Each review is written collaboratively by a team of medical professionals with backgrounds in clinical practice, research, patient advocacy, and public policy. There are currently over 50 different reviewers working for HealthWeb Navigator, with multiple reviewers assigned to every website. All website reviewers have practiced medicine at the level of nurse practitioner or higher. They also undergo training on how to spot outdated or misleading information online.

HealthWeb Navigator’s collection of reviews expands daily and includes hundreds of vetted health resources focusing on diseases, health insurance, doctors and hospitals, prescription medicine, pediatrics, and women’s health, among others.

 

“We want people to feel empowered when researching their health online,” said NeedyMeds president Rich Sagall, M.D., “not helpless.”

And for doctors and patients who already have a list of websites they trust? “Hopefully they can find credible resources they might not have heard of otherwise and recommend them to others,” Sagall said.

 

Staying up-to-date on the latest reviews is as easy as checking HealthWeb Navigator’s homepage or following them on Twitter and Facebook. Users can even submit websites for HealthWeb Navigator to review.

Health Tips & Resources for the First Day of Summer

Today is the first day of summer in the United States. Over the next few months, it will be important to protect ourselves from the health risks posed by the sun and heat. Regardless of skin color, exposure to the sun carries many dangers to one’s skin—from freckles and wrinkles often associated with aging, to sunburns, benign tumors or cancerous skin lesions. Prolonged heat exposure can also have many negative impacts on one’s health ranging from a rash, exhaustion, fainting, or even death.

sunglasseslotionAlthough everyone should take precautions to protect their skin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages those with pale skin; blond, red, or light brown hair; or who has a personal or family history of skin cancer to be especially careful while in the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage one’s skin in as little as 15 minutes, and the best tool in combating that skin damage is sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying SPF 30 (at least) liberally 15 minutes before going outside, and to reapply at least every two hours to remain protected.

 

An often overlooked risk to health over the summer are biting insects. Illnesses from mosquito and tick bites have increased in the United States over recent years. Mosquitoes can spread viruses like Zika, West Nile, chikungunya, Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and dengue; ticks can infect people or pets with lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other tick-borne illnesses. People should protect themselves by using insect/bug repellent and be mindful to check for ticks after spending time outside, especially in wooded areas or in tall grass. Pet owners should use a veterinarian-approved tick collar or preventative medicine to protect their dogs or outdoor cats.

To further protect your skin where sunscreen and bug spray are ineffective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when possible, and at least a t-shirt when the heat makes long clothing uncomfortable. Hats and sunglasses also protect vulnerable areas from the sun. Staying in the shade or avoiding the outdoors altogether during the midday hours can also lower one’s risk of skin damage from the sun.

Over 600 heat-related deaths occur per year in the U.S. The CDC has many recommendations including staying in air-conditioned or climate-controlled areas, taking cool showers or baths, drinking more water than usual to stay hydrated, avoiding alcohol or sugary drinks, and to be aware of local weather reports.

It is very important to know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Muscle cramping is often the first sign, and could lead to heavy sweating, weakness, clammy skin, fast weak pulse, nausea, or fainting—the signs of heat exhaustion. Cramps can also lead to heat stroke, a medical emergency; if body temperature rises above 103°F with rapid and strong pulse or unconsciousness, call 911 immediately. In times of extreme heat, people are encouraged to check on friends and neighbors who are at higher risk to the heat such as people aged 65 and older, infants and children, people with chronic medical conditions, outdoor workers, and people with low income.

 

For low-income households, there is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program provides federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with home energy bills or weatherization, helping those in need stay cool in the summer or warm in the winter. You can find your local LIHEAP service provider on their website.

It is important to know the dangers of sun and heat exposure, and that there are resources available for those in need. NeedyMeds has information on national Diagnosis-Based Assistance programs (DBAs) offering testing for those at risk for skin cancer or lyme disease as well as financial assistance for those already diagnosed. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897. We hope everyone enjoys the beautiful weather this summer and stays safe and healthy.

National Men’s Health Week

Last month, we had National Women’s Health Week. For the month of June there is Men’s Health Week, designed to encourage men to make their health a priority. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has many tips for men to improve their health, and we at NeedyMeds have resources for a number of conditions that predominantly affect men.

Men's Health WeekThe CDC offers many ways to observe National Men’s Health Week, such as taking a bike ride, aim to eat healthier, or quit unhealthy habits. Men can improve their health by getting a good night’s sleep, quitting tobacco and avoiding second-hand smoke, being more active in daily life, eating healthier, and managing stress. Being aware of your own health is important as well. Be sure to see your doctor for regular check-ups and get tested for diseases and conditions that may not have symptoms until there is an imminent health risk. Testicular and prostate cancers are easily detected with regular checks.

 

For men over 45 years of age, the most common causes of death are heart disease and cancer. Heart health is important for men and women of all ages and cancer can affect different parts of the body, including those that may appear atypical—1% of breast cancer diagnoses are found in men, and transgender men are at risk for ovarian or cervical cancer. For men younger than 45, the most common causes of death are accidental injuries and suicide. As with heart health, mental health is important to people of all ages and gender. If you or someone you know are experiencing despair or suicidal feelings, call or text Samaritans at 877-870-HOPE (4673) any time if you need help.

NeedyMeds has information for many programs and clinics that offer assistance to men in need. There are several organizations offering varying kinds of assistance to men with prostate cancer and other diagnoses in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance area of our website. There are also free or low-cost clinics that offer men’s health services. Search your local area on our website and look for “Men’s Health” listed with Services. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.

Trump’s Speech on Drug Prices Boosts Pharmaceutical Stocks

President Donald Trump gave a speech about pharmaceutical drug prices last month. During his presidential campaign and leading up to his inauguration, he accused pharmaceutical companies with “getting away with murder” for what they charge patients for prescriptions and promised to enact reforms to lower drug prices. After sixteen months in office, his speech last month consisted of few proposals as opposed to proposing meaningful legislation or guidelines that could have an immediate effect on prescription costs and actually led to pharmaceutical stocks rising.

 

Trump took aim at Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) who he referred to as “middlemen” who implement “gag rules” that forbid pharmacists from telling patients they are spending more than they need to on a prescription (you can read our blog on the laws proposed to combat PBM gag rules here). He also touched on other popular proposals such as removing barriers to generic medications and biosimilars from entering the market and encouraging lower prices through competition, as well as granting Medicare Part D more flexibility to negotiate prices with manufacturers.

 

1416631397nn1xeSome new ideas did emerge from Trump’s speech: price transparency by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to include the list price of their drug in advertisements; and to somehow make foreign nations (many of which buy U.S.-made medications through direct negotiations between their governments and pharmaceutical companies) pay more. There is little evidence to support transparency in pricing will impact prescription prices; it follows a pattern of attempting to “shame” pharmaceutical companies, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published names of companies that actively delay generic versions of their medications coming to market. There is even less evidence to suggest that any profit-maximizing pharmaceutical company would consider lowering prices for American patients if other nations are forced to pay more than they are now.

 

Analysts believe that Trump’s proposals will have a negligible effect on drugmakers’ profits or patients’ high prescription costs. Investors appear to agree, as stocks for several pharmaceutical companies as well as Pharmacy Benefit Managers all rose the afternoon following Trump’s speech. Despite claims that reforming healthcare in the U.S. would be “so easy,” “everyone will be taken care of,” and “no one will lose coverage” or “be worse off financially”, experts see the announced plans as an incomplete blueprint that does not address the underlying problems causing high prescription prices or out-of-pocket costs.

 

There will be further developments regarding prescription prices and the future of healthcare in the United States, and we at NeedyMeds will try to keep up-to-date on the details. We at NeedyMeds prefer to remain apolitical—we work in a diverse office with people of varying backgrounds and views—but we believe in being informed and that those in need deserve care. It should be clear that NeedyMeds supports improved access to care as well as lower costs for medications and healthcare services for all.

 

While medication costs continue to rank highly among American concerns, NeedyMeds has resources available for those struggling with prescription costs. Our website has databases of information, including Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) that provide prescribed medications at low- or no-cost. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card also helps those without insurance (or those who choose not to use their insurance) by saving between 0-80% of their prescription costs, also available as a printable PDF or a smartphone app. NeedyMeds also has information on Coupons and Rebates that can help lower the cost of necessary medications. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.

Increasing Awareness and Understanding for OCD and Related Disorders

Today’s blog is a guest entry from our partners at the International OCD Foundation.

Mental Health Awareness Month ImageImagine you woke up one day during a particularly stressful time in your life, and your mind got stuck on a single thought. Perhaps you were anxious about a project at school or work, and were worried that you had made a mistake. Imagine your mind would not let that worry go. Instead, you replayed that anxious thought over and over and over again in your head. Imagine that you could not convince yourself that it was okay, even after re-checking your work and finding no mistake, or finding a mistake, but reasoning with yourself that it was minor and fixable. Now, imagine you woke up everyday with this feeling — this relentless anxiety — regardless of whether there was actually something worrisome happening in your life. Imagine this anxiety left you unable to get out of bed in the morning, or unable to leave the house, or unable to start any project for fear of making another mistake.

For approximately 3 million people in the US alone, this is a reality. This is obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder which causes an individual to have obsessions and compulsive behaviors that are so severe, they interfere with the individual’s everyday life; for example, causing the individual to miss work, school, social events, or other important activities.

Now imagine that everyone knew about what caused OCD and how to treat it. And imagine there was no stigma associated with asking for help or admitting you had a mental illness. Imagine that everyone had access to effective, affordable mental health services. Unfortunately, this latter part of the scenario is not yet a reality for most people.

On average, it can take 14 to 17 years to get a proper diagnosis and effective treatment for OCD after first showing symptoms. Can you imagine if that were the case for other illnesses? For cancer?

At the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), we work to improve the lives of all those affected by OCD and related disorders. Founded in 1986 by a small group of individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), the IOCDF has grown to be the world’s leading resource for OCD and related disorders. Thanks to the patronage of members and donors, the IOCDF is able to provide support, education, and resources for those living with OCD and related disorders, family members, researchers, and professionals who treat these conditions. Based in Boston, the IOCDF has affiliates in 25 states and territories, as well as 11 Global Partners.

We assist the OCD community in a variety of different ways, including providing access to resources and support. Our websites, which cover OCD (iocdf.org), OCD in kids (OCDinkids.org), hoarding disorder (helpforhoarding.org), and body dysmorphic disorder (helpforbdd.org),  contain content written by some of the leading OCD mental health professionals in the world. In addition, our robust online Resource Directory allows community members to search for therapists, support groups, intensive clinics, and local affiliates.

 

Throughout the year, we organize several OCD-focused events for the community, which include OCD Awareness Week, the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk, and the Annual OCD Conference, which brings together health professionals, researchers, those living with OCD, and their loved ones, to learn about the latest research, treatment, and practice in OCD and related disorders. In addition to these community events, our IOCDF Training Institute hosts professional trainings throughout the year so that more health professionals are trained in recognizing and treating OCD.

 

The IOCDF is always looking to expand our resources to meet the needs of the community. As we look toward the future, we have begun establishing brand new community programs such as our Transition Packet Program which will provide information, education, and resources for individuals transitioning out of OCD residential programs, as well as our Anxiety in the Classroom Program which will reshape the way OCD is talked about in schools.

 

With the support of the community, we hope to continue to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and improve the lives of even more people affected by OCD and related disorders.

Get Involved!

To learn more about the IOCDF, including information about how to attend an event, become a member, or make a donation, please visit iocdf.org today.

 

Social Media Posts:

#DidYouKnow that OCD is not a personality quirk

On average, it can take an individual with OCD up to 17 years from the onset of symptoms to receive a proper diagnosis and begin receiving effective treatment. Together we can help to change this statistic by increasing awareness and ending the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

 

Did you also know…

  • 1 in 100 adults are estimated to have OCD. To learn more and gain perspective on this statistic, read this guest post by Morgan Rondinelli.
  • There are as many children in the US with OCD as there are children with diabetes. To learn more, visit our OCD in Kids website.
  • OCD can emerge at any time from preschool to adulthood, but most commonly appears between ages 10-12 or in late teens/early adulthood. Click here to learn about out our new programming specifically for these age groups within the Annual OCD Conference.
  • It takes, on average, between 14 to 17 years between onset of OCD symptoms and access to effective treatment.
  • OCD-related conditions include hoarding disorder (HD) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) as well as hair-pulling disorder (trichotillomania) and skin-picking disorder (dermatillomania). To learn more about related disorders, click here.
  • About 70% of patients with OCD will benefit from either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication. However, obstacles to getting effective treatment for OCD include:
  • Hiding symptoms due to embarrassment and stigma.
  • Lack of proper training in health professionals.
  • Difficulty finding local therapists who can effectively treat OCD.

If more people knew these facts, would they be more willing to help support the OCD and related disorders community? Would you be willing to partner with us to help spread the word about what OCD really is? With your help we can increase access to resources, support, and treatment for everyone affected by OCD and related disorders.

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