Turn Your Browser and Cough: The Top 15 Health Care Web Sites

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Lt. Reginald Barclay was a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation. By trade, he was an engineer, but he was well known on the show for being a massive hypochondriac. On one episode, Dr. Beverly Crusher advised Reg not to look through the Star Fleet medical database anymore because it was causing him to obsess over diseases he didn't have.

All of this was supposed to take place years into the future, but with all the medical resources available online, the future is now, both for healthcare and hypochondria. Clearly, my biggest health issue is chronic nerdiness given that Next Generation lede.

Before I get to this list, a word of warning. Don't try and self-diagnose. It is particularly important that you don't try to self-diagnose through public forums because, invariably, that soreness in your toe will mean you have terminal cancer and three weeks to live if the denizens of health Web sites were to be believed.

However, if you do want some basic healthcare knowledge, remedies for common ailments or relief from reoccurring problems, here are 15-plus Web sites that can help you out. Just don't come back to me tomorrow complaining that you are certain you have a rare, fatal African virus because of a pain in your shoulder.

15. BetterMedicine.com and HealthGrades.com These are companion Web sites owned by the same company. HealthGrades is like Yelp for doctors. Patient surveys grade physicians on everything from trust and communication to wait time and office environment. There are a TON of doctors listed, making it very useful. BetterMedicine is a comprehensive healthcare site with well-organized information and a easy-to-use symptom checker.

14. RXList.com and Drugs.com I lumped these two together since they are both drug information Web sites. Both have tremendous detail and pill-identifier software. RXList is owned by WebMD, a name you'll see on this list, and I'd give it the slight edge over Drugs.com, which is based in New Zealand, but they are both good sites for medication information and identification.

13. Wellsphere.com Wellsphere is like the Google of medical Web sites. Its interface is super simple -- just a search box on the front page -- and no cluttered screen full of articles and photos. The search results return articles and all sorts of detailed information as well as news from HealthCentral.com, a site also owned by the parent company of Wellsphere.

12. Prevention.com This site is the online companion to the popular health and wellness magazine of the same name. While it probably isn't quite as comprehensive as some of the other sites on this list and it delves a little more into beauty and other topics that no doubt drive magazine readership, it is well organized and has good content.

11. Health.gov Health.gov is a remarkably simple and functional Web site run by the federal Health and Human Services Department on health and healthcare initiatives. It ties directly into HealthFinder.gov for detailed information on disease, but it isn't a full-blown diagnosis Web site.

10. EverydayHealth.com EverydayHealth.com is more of a wellness and lifestyle Web site focusing as much on exercise and healthy eating as on hardcore medical treatment and diagnosis. It's akin to Prevention, but a little more detailed. There are good articles and it's very easy to navigate.

9. Healthline.com It makes me marginally uncomfortable that this Web site is owned by a company that advertises services to assist healthcare providers with "customer engagement" and "healthcare consumerization," but it does have quite a bit of good information and a solid symptom checker.

8. National Institutes of Health It's tough to go wrong with the NIH, one of the largest health organizations on the planet. The actual diagnostic portion of this Web site is very good and, most importantly, the information on here can be trusted.

7. KidsHealth.org KidsHealth.org is an online arm of The Nemours Foundation, a nonprofit healthcare organization founded in the 1930s. If you are a kid or a parent or an expectant parent, there is good information here on all sorts of ailments.

6. MedicineNet.com MedicineNet is part of the family of sites owned by WebMD and is run by doctors who helped author the Websters Worldwide Medical Dictionary. As you might imagine, it has a ton of information and is well organized.

5. MedHelp.org MedHelp is a for-profit Web site despite the dot-org designation, with one of the largest online communities of any Web site. This community uses MedHelp's extensive forums and social network-like interface to provide ungodly amounts of information. If you want to talk about your health with others, this is one of the best places to do it.

4. The Mayo Clinic Despite giggling whenever I see a reference to this prestigious medical center thanks to the "Give me ham on rye and hold the Mayo" line in Airplane, there is no disputing the fact that it is one of the preeminent medical facilities in the world. Its website is clean, simple and loaded with good information.

3. iTriage There probably isn't an easier way to find out who in your area does what when it comes to treatment and medical procedures than iTriage. Their app is supposed to be fantastic as well (going to have to try that). While the diagnostic tools on the site are overly simplified, if you need to find someone near you that removes an ingrown toenail or does a heart transplant, this site finds it...fast.

2. WebMD WebMD is the undisputed granddaddy of healthcare Web sites. It not only has a massive database and online community, it is tremendously easy to use and has the support of a handful of other online resources. In short, it is likely the most comprehensive online resource for healthcare that exists.

1. Yahoo! Health Despite glowing praise for WebMD, I have a strong bias toward Yahoo. Few tech companies have ever been able to transform themselves the way Yahoo has from a search engine to perhaps the best source of news online. Its healthcare section is no different and it taps into their massive online community and news database to deliver one of the most effective Web sites, let alone healthcare Web sites.

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