American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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How the College's home health guide is helping doctors by educating patients

From the December 1999 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 1999 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

By Phyllis Maguire

Earlier this fall, the College made its most extensive foray into consumer health publishing with the "American College of Physicians Complete Home Medical Guide." Produced by Dorling Kindersley Publishing Inc., the book aims to help consumers take more responsibility for their own health by providing information about hundreds of medical conditions.

The 1,100-page book, which includes a CD-ROM on human anatomy, took several years to compile and edit. David R. Goldmann, FACP, the book's Editor-in-Chief and Senior Deputy Editor of Annals of Internal Medicine, spoke with ACP­ASIM Observer about the guide and its importance to physicians.

Q: Why did the College get involved in publishing a consumer medical guide?

A: There is now a wealth of health information, particularly on the Web, but not all of it is safe or reliable. The College's participation means that the guide includes the best information consumers can get.

Q: What was your editorial approach?

A: The first section of the guide is titled "Taking Control of Your Health," and that was our philosophy throughout. Medicine now is not only more evidence-based but also more patient-centered, and a lot more negotiation takes place between doctor and patient in deciding treatments and procedures. The idea that patients are responsible for their own health permeates the book.

Q: How does the book get that idea across?

A: We put a heavy emphasis on how lifestyle affects health, as well as on screening and prevention. For many of the medical conditions described, we highlight preventive lifestyle choices. We also emphasize the role of genetic "inheritance" to help readers assess their risk of contracting diseases. They can then develop lifestyle strategies to mitigate the effect of adverse genetic issues.

Q: What are some of the book's most distinctive features?

A: The book has more than 2,000 full-color illustrations. These images combine both photography and X-rays with artwork in a way that is absolutely compelling.

Another excellent feature is what we call "symptom charts," which are consumer versions of clinical algorithms. The book includes 70 symptom charts for the general population, as well as charts designed specifically for men, women and children.

Each of the organ-specific sections has an introductory chapter that illustrates the anatomy, physiology and biochemistry of that particular organ. There are comprehensive chapters on first aid and emergency care, as well as a drug glossary. And we have an extensive section on useful online sites and consumer health organizations.

Q: How do you think internists will benefit from the publication?

A: I find that practicing medicine is much more satisfying when patients have enough knowledge to help decide the best therapy or approach to take. It is much more effective to treat patients who know something about medical issues.

Q: How was editing a consumer health book different from working on a clinical journal for physicians?

A: It was a real challenge to translate medical language and procedures into something that consumers can understand. Many doctors have a very hard time making sense without a lot of medical jargon.

The "American College of Physicians Complete Home Medical Guide" is available for $40 at major bookstores. Members can order a copy for $34 by calling Customer Service at 800-523-1546, ext. 2600, or 215-351-2600, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

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