Sapient Health Network: A Promising Service for People with Serious Diseases

Article excerpt

If you have fibromyalgia (FMS) or Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), breast cancer, or prostate cancer-or if you are a family member or caretaker of someone with one of those conditions-check into the Sapient Health Network (SHN) to find up-to-date news, research the disease, and talk with your community. Bookmark http://www.shn.net; you'll want to visit it regularly.

Getting to "Go"

To access SHN, you must first click on one of the diseases covered. You are forced to register-and the process here is lengthier than most Web registrations. You must fill out an extensive profile indicating your reason for visiting (you've been diagnosed with the disease; you've not been diagnosed but suspect you have it; you're interested on behalf of a family member or friend, or "other"). A three-page questionnaire about symptoms and treatment, and an interesting statement of Terms & Conditions follows.

Sapient promises to keep your personal information confidential so that no third party can access it, but states that whatever you post on the message board is considered public. "We use any information you give us in ways to provide you with better service and in statistical aggregates used in our business...we have the right to use what you say or data you send to develop research databases, articles, promotional and testimonial materials." Sapient also requires that you honor copyrights and that you agree that they can change the rules-with email notice ten days before the changes take effect.

If you can accept all that, select a password, and finally you're on.

I registered for the fibromyalgia section and found several options.

Newsstand offers Reuters Medical News and SHN Reports. The day I first logged on, there were 27 pages of headline news! Full text of the wire service story or report is available by clicking on the title.

The Library section offers SHN Reference, updated weekly, where you can click on any of the following for more information: Basic overview; Fibromyalgia; CFIDS; Natural Healing; Multiple Chemical Sensitivity; Questions & Answers; Books & Reviews; Journals; Newsletters; Chat Transcripts; and Resource Center. Reference Databases are also available for searching in the Library: for fibromyalgia the choices are MDX Drug Database, the MerriamWebster Medical Dictionary, and a selection from NLM's MEDLINE (abstracts from 1993-1995 only). A fibromyalgia search on MEDLINE provided lots of good current information. But I tried another MEDLINE search for a condition outside the realm of this database. It didn't work very well, and this interface isn't set up for complex searches. …

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