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Software, Sites to Exercise Fitness Options . . .and Put Medical Info Under Microscope

January 05, 1998|KIM KOMANDO | Kim Komando is a TV host, syndicated talk radio host, author and entrepreneur. You can visit her Web site at or e-mail her at

Let me start by saying that if you have any sort of serious illness, or if you have symptoms that you're not sure about, please consult a qualified physician. No amount of computer software or online resources can take the place of professional medical treatment. That said, I have to admit that there are times when some medical reference materials come in quite handy around the house--from first aid tips to in-depth information about a wide variety of medical conditions.

A few years ago, a home medical reference came in the form of a thick book--or several books--for which you were likely to spend a considerable amount of money. One problem with any bound book is that you can't update it; new information may come out, but that information can't make it into the pages of your reference volumes.

Then along came the personal computer, CD-ROMs and the Internet. Thanks to technology, a world of medical information is literally at your fingertips--if you know where to look. Let's explore some possible sources.

For starters, often after visiting a physician, you need a dictionary to help explain all the medical mumbo jumbo you've just heard. For help with more than 57,000 medical definitions, Merriam Webster's Medical Audio Dictionary is the ticket (from Merriam Webster, It also includes color illustrations and pronunciation tips and is available for both Windows and Mac for $49.95.

Mayo Clinic Family Health and Mayo Clinic Family Pharmacist (both from IVI Publishing, have been recognized as top medical software titles for a number of years. Now IVI has bundled the current versions of both titles onto a single Windows CD-ROM called The Mayo Clinic Ultimate Medical Guide.

Family Health covers more than 1,000 diseases. It presents common symptoms and then guides you through various causes of those symptoms. The program also offers suggestions to help you prepare ahead of time for emergencies with first aid and poison information.

Family Pharmacist is a complete guide to both prescription and over-the-counter medications. You can learn about side effects and potentially dangerous interactions to watch out for. The program offers multimedia videos to show exactly how to administer different medications.

Perhaps best of all, you never have to worry about the information going out of date. Through a new feature called HealthWatch, you can connect directly to the Mayo Health Oasis Web site to get updated information as it becomes available. At only $39.95, it's a fair price for sound medical advice.

You probably know Learning Co. ( for its top-selling educational titles for kids. The company brings this same level of quality to its Home Medical Advisor multimedia software. Using live-action video, an on-screen doctor asks various detailed questions. Based on your answers, he guides you through possible diagnoses and treatments. There are also tools to help you assess your own risk for major diseases like lung cancer or heart disease--and then help you to reduce that risk.

The CD-ROM contains more than 2,000 images and three hours of live-action video. It also contains detailed information on more than 8,000 medications. The program runs on Windows 3.1 and higher and lists for $49.95.

Physician's Home Assistant (from Mindscape, is another well-done medical reference. Along with extensive medical information, the program includes a record-keeping function that allows you to record and maintain several years worth of medical history for your entire family.

Wonder if you're paying too much for medical treatment? Physician's Home Assistant includes extensive listings of medical procedures, surgeries and tests, including their typical costs. The program also provides tools for fitness and nutrition planning.

Physician's Home Assistant comes on a hybrid CD-ROM (a single CD that will run on both Windows and Macintosh computers) and sells for the nice price of $19.95.

While all these software titles do an excellent job of providing general medical information, there will probably come a time when you want to zero in on some specific health topic. For those times, I suggest turning directly to the World Wide Web.

For example, if you're interested in pediatrics, you should definitely visit and bookmark ParentsPlace ( This site is simply loaded with pediatric information--everything from attention deficit disorder to vaccinations.

On this site, you also have the opportunity to pose your own health questions to a real-life doctor, dentist, midwife, lactation consultant or nutritionist. Although questions are not answered individually, these health-care professionals do answer questions likely to have broad interest and then post them in a searchable online archive. ParentsPlace also includes dozens of topic-specific message boards where parents can exchange their own thoughts on areas of pediatric concern.

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