Not long ago, finding help or advice for a
difficult patient case was just as difficult for the solo practitioner as the case
itself. Searching through old, discarded journals, paging endlessly through
Duane's or other encyclopedic resources and calling a colleague were the only
options we had for on-the-spot diagnostic or management help.
Fortunately, times have changed and we now
have more resources at our fingertips. If you have a computer and a live
connection to the Internet, you have one of the most powerful research tools at
your disposal. A simple click of your mouse can bring you in touch with experts
who can contribute their advice on diagnosis and treatment options.
This month, I'll review six Web sites that
will make your job much easier. Keep them on hand in the event you're faced
with a case that requires a little bit of help.
Register in a group forum
For the past 10 years, the Optcomlist
(www.optcom.com) has been one of the most valuable resources for optometric
questions and concerns. The Optcomlist, created by Walt Mayo, O.D., is a
mailing list of more than 1,500 optometrists from around the world who communicate
daily via e-mail. Messages posted on the Optcomlist are sent to all registered
participants, creating an invaluable forum for discussion, information and
I've consulted with the Optcomlist group
many times regarding particularly difficult and perplexing patient cases. I
usually get responses within 24 hours, and the advice givers include anyone
from ordinary O.D.s to experts and researchers.
You can also benefit from group discussions,
which range from discussions about frame fashions to legal issues. If you're
not already a registered participant, I suggest you sign up soon.
Search past articles online
The Internet offers other means of help for
specific cases. Log on to the Optometric Management home page at
www.optometric.com and click on the "research" button to get
information about glaucoma, blepharoconjunctivitis and other conditions from
well-known authors such as Arthur B. Epstein, O.D., F.A.A.O., and Eric Schmidt,
User-friendly online manual
We all know how valuable the Merck Manual is
for diagnosis and treatment options. Well, now we can consult the latest
edition online at www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual. This version is more
user-friendly than the actual manual because it's searchable by typing in
keywords. The same information you find in the book version is displayed in an
easy-to-navigate version on the Web site.
Resources with a fee
For information on various drugs, The
Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) Web site (http://physician.pdr.net) is a great
resource. Be forewarned that you have to register before you can use this site
and that optometry isn't listed as a specialty (Gee, how'd they miss that?),
but "other" is.
Registration is free if you're only looking
for general information and news; however, access to the PDR and to Stedman's
Medical Dictionary requires a monthly or annual fee, depending on which plan
you choose. As with the Merck Manual, the online version of these two
publications is simpler and faster to use than paging through the actual books.
An unexpected source of diagnosis and
treatment information is the WebMD site, www.webmd.com. This is a pay site, so
you must enroll and pay a yearly fee to belong. For your fee, however, the site
provides you with a number of useful services including articles on diagnosing
and treating diseases, as well as late-breaking drug and treatment news. You'll
also have access to the online versions of Scientific American Medicine, Daily
Medical News and over 1,100 hours of medical CME.
Utilizing site links
MDSupport is a Web site that offers support
for patients with certain eye diseases. This site (www.mdsupport.org) also has
a number of links to other eyecare sites where practitioners can find helpful
information about conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, Best's disease, cystoid
macular edema and more.
Don't forget the basics
In addition to searching the specific sites
listed in this article, you can also search for information on diseases or
conditions using almost any of the popular commercial search engines, such as
www.yahoo.com, www.msn.com, www.aol.com and www.hotbot.com, to name but a few.
Lastly, don't overlook the power of e-mail.
I've yet to meet an optometric educator who isn't willing to share his
knowledge via an informal e-mail message.
Whichever methods or resources you choose,
rest assured that the means to get the information and advice you need are no
farther away than a few clicks of your mouse.
Resource Sites at a Glance
www.optcom.com -- a mailing list for you
to communicate with other O.D.s for information, ideas and advice.
www.optometric.com -- Optometric
Management's home page. Click on the "research" button to access
information on various topics by well-known authors.
www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual -- search the
online version of the Merck Manual by typing in keywords.
http://physician.pdr.net -- choose a plan
(two of the three offered require a monthly or annual fee), and you can use the
online versions of the Physician's Desk Reference and Stedman's Medical
www.webmd.com -- pay a yearly fee to view
the online versions of various publications and benefit from other services and
www.mdsupport.org -- find diagnosis and
treatment options for ocular diseases by checking out the links on this Web
Dr. Diecidue practices in Stroudsburg,
Pa. He's president of Mountain Computer Systems, a producer of software and
solutions for optometrists.