Helping patients decipher options

Beginning next spring, a consortium of 20 scientific publishers, three health societies, and four other groups representing publishers and libraries will debut a free online service offering new medical findings to consumers. The goal of patientINFORM ( is to make technical research easier for the public to understand and to “empower patients to have a more productive dialogue with their physicians,” says Harmon J. Eyre, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.

The not-for-profit Web site will initially focus on cancer, diabetes, and heart disease and eventually expand to other disorders. Summaries will describe new research and put it in context, the site’s developers say. These reports will also provide no-cost links to full-text research papers and related information.

Ignorance about health “has been called a ‘silent epidemic,'” says Richard Kahn of the American Diabetes Association in Alexandria, Va. The new program is designed to overcome the embarrassment or intimidation many patients feel when faced with complicated information or jargon, says Kahn.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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