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Trial under way of free online health information

Media Release

July 28 2004

Trial under way of free online health information

New Zealanders now have free access to a prestigious British website which provides consumers with information on health issues, the Ministry of Health announced today.

The site provides reliable, evidence-based information that explains treatments that are proven to work, as well as the risks and benefits of health treatments and interventions.

"We have decided to run this free trial until the end of the year to see how New Zealanders respond to the information," said the Health Services Manager, Deborah Woodley.

The BestTreatments website, run by the British Medical Journal, provides proven treatment advice for 60 common conditions. The Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Guidelines Group have funded free access for almost everyone browsing the web from within New Zealand, as part of a pilot programme approved to run until the end of the year.

"We hope consumers will download information from the site and use it to discuss treatment options with their families and their primary care practitioner," Ms Woodley said.

The site contains information sourced from the British Medical Journal's worldwide survey of the most up-to-date medical research, which is assessed by more than 500 of the world's leading doctors. It dispenses with medical jargon to present information usually accessible only to health practitioners in an easy-to-understand form.

"BestTreatments can help you and your doctor use the evidence from medical research to decide together which treatment options are best for you," said MsWoodley.

The free access to BestTreatments follows the success of another trial in which 200 New Zealand doctors gained access to the complementary Clinical Evidence site, with a further 1000 receiving the information in the form of a book and CD-ROM. Clinical Evidence funding has been provided by the Accident Compensation Corporation, Pharmac and the New Zealand Guidelines Group.

While information for both sites comes from the same source, the BestTreatments material is re-written and presented from the patient perspective and emphasising "quality of life" issues.

Background Information

Where does the BestTreatments information come from?

The information comes from the British Medical Journal's worldwide survey of the best, most up-to-date medical research, used by doctors universally. It consults with more than 500 doctors internationally and considers all the research evidence before deciding which treatments work best for each condition. Information sources are detailed on each page of the site.

How is the information compiled?

The research evidence for each treatment is studied and summarised by a doctor who is an expert in the field and is then checked by at least three more doctors. A leading expert then provides advice on how doctors can use the research evidence and finally a team of writers ensures that everything on the site can be understood by the general public.

What can consumers learn about their conditions?

The site provides a summary of which drugs are considered the best for each condition, and their possible side effects. It also provides comprehensive information about surgery that is available, including what happens during the operation, recovery time and risks.

How comprehensive is the list of conditions?

There are 60 chronic conditions listed alphabetically, covering everything from asthma and athletes foot through migraine and multiple sclerosis to stroke, varicose veins and wisdom teeth.

Is the information easy to understand?

The website provides the option of reading either patients' information, which is written in layman's terms, or doctors' information, which uses clinical terminology. Consumers can switch between them to find the level of detail that is right for them.

What is the New Zealand Guidelines Group?

The NZGG is an independent non-profit organisation set up to promote effective, evidence based care in the health and disability sector. Its recent developments include guidelines for the assessment and management of cardiovascular risk, atrial fibrillation, cardiac rehabilitation, type two diabetes and stroke.

How can the public access the BestTreatments site?

Almost everyone browsing the web from within New Zealand can use the site free. Go directly to:

or go to the Ministry of Health website:

or use the link on the New Zealand Guidelines Group website

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