Global Medical Knowledge 2020 Initiative to Provide Free Access to Accurate and Reliable Medical Information on Every Continent by 2020
Many of us turn to search engines such as Google when we need quick information about a medical condition, or when we don’t feel well. When visiting a specific website, we often assume that the information has been validated or even peer reviewed.
While widely recognized medical websites such as WebMD and Medscape represent trusted sources of medical information, Merck Manuals Inc,–as a result of a recent internal online survey about attitudes toward medical information–believes that Americans still need a more reliable and accurate source of information that is free of advertising, and does not require online registration.
Results of a recent survey by Merck Manuals, Inc, indicate that some of the most important barriers to increasing medical knowledge are an overabundance of online medical information, coupled with the inability to judge the accuracy and reliability of online sources.
To remedy this issue, Merck Manuals Inc, a trusted source of medical knowledge since 1899, today launched Global Medical Knowledge 2020 – a global plan to provide the most current and reliable medical information for nearly 3 billion consumers and medical providers by 2020.
Emphasizing the importance for access to reliable and accurate medical information, Merck Manuals conducted an online survey to evaluate the current sentiments of consumers seeking online medical information. Their results demonstrate that 39 percent of persons in the U.S feel they are lacking or deficient in medical knowledge, with 33 percent expressing thoughts of “trying to keep up” and six percent saying they “barely know the basics.”
Two versions will be available: a consumer and professional version at no cost at MerckManuals.com. (for countries outside of the U.S. and Canada, it will be available at MSDManuals.com). By 2020, a mobile app with all available content will be available in multiple languages.
Merck’s survey released today demonstrated that close to 80 percent of Americans feel that being able to view the same information as their doctor would add to better understanding of their own health and wellness.
Results of the online survey:
- More than one in five (21 percent) cite their inability to judge the quality of medical information sources online as the biggest barrier to increasing their level of medical knowledge;
- More than one in four (28 percent) identify the overwhelming amount of medical information sources and topics online as the biggest barrier to increasing their level of medical knowledge;
- Despite credibility concerns, more than half of Americans (55 percent) say they learn about medical symptoms and options more often from the Internet than their doctor.
“The health information landscape is constantly evolving in today’s digital world, but many people still struggle to access and comprehend the information they need to make the right personal health decisions,” said Robert S. Porter, M.D., Merck Manuals Editor-in-Chief. “With Global Medical Knowledge 2020, we’re committed to providing consumers and health care professionals everywhere with quality, unbiased medical information they can easily understand and use on a daily basis.”
With written content by more than 350 medical experts Merckmanuals.com is free of charge, does not require registration and is free of commercial advertising.
“We believe that health information is a universal right, not a privilege, and that providing free access to quality medical information will enable more informed decisions, enhance relationships between patients and professionals and improve health care outcomes around the world,” explained Porter.
Results of the online survey conducted by Harris Poll for Merckmanuals.com raises the question of whether there may be a global health literacy crisis.
Porter believes that “as a result of an accelerating increase in overall medical knowledge—there’s just more to know.” Secondly, more of that information is now visible and discoverable, particularly by lay people,” he added.
Porter explains that “you might think that with so much information available, everyone would be completely satisfied that they had all the information they needed to understand health issues.” “But there is such an immense amount of medical information that people are either drowning in it or unable to distinguish credible from unreliable sources,” he suggested.
A recent online survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by the Harris Poll found that 21% of respondents felt their inability to judge the quality of medical information sources online was their biggest barrier to understanding and another 28% felt the overwhelming amount of medical information sources and topics online was their major barrier. On the other hand, outside of the U.S., people in many countries have few or no options for medical information in their own language.
Thus, despite the medical information explosion, there is actually more of a need for credible medical information than there was before, and our mission is to provide trusted information for free and in multiple languages to begin breaking down the barriers.
One question that may arise is whether providing patients with access to the same information that their medical providers have will be confusing?
Porter does not believe this will be the case, explaining that “for decades before the internet (and before our Consumer Version) tens of thousands of lay people bought print editions of the Merck Manual and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” adding that “our Harris Poll revealed that 79% of consumers believe having access to the same information their doctor uses would improve their understanding of their health, so we give people visiting MerckManuals.com the option to choose the consumer version or professional version.”
In addition, Porter explains that “from any given topic, people have the option to toggle back and forth between the two versions. In this way, he explains, “the toggle feature also allows physicians to read something in the professional version but switch to the consumer version to email or print the information for their patient, helping to put professionals and consumers on the same page.”
One final issue is whether medical knowledge found online in the Merck Manual could be integrated into electronic health records for those providers who need quick updates on a given medical topic.
Porter explains that “we have recently done a test deployment of the Merck Manual in the EHR system at Intermountain Health Care in Utah, and developed an HL7-compliant Infobutton API that provides context-aware access to the content of The Merck Manual.” Now that our new web portal is up, we will be working to expand use through EHRs.”
Porter also explains “that content will be available for integration without charge as long as no costs are passed on to the end-user.”