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Patient and Family Education Center

Patient and Family Education Center

West Penn Hospital offers a Patient and Family Education Center within the Richard M. Johnston Health Sciences Library.

The center serves as a learning resource for patients and their families, offering computer access to the latest educational materials.

The Patient and Family Education Center is off the lobby of the WPH Health Sciences Library, which is accessed from the back of the cafeteria (Friendship Dining Room) on the first floor, North Tower, of WPH. 

For more information:


Consumer Health Information

Please click on one of these categories for a list of links:



Dictionaries - Medical




Drug/Medication Information

Prescription Medicines

Proper Use of Medicines



Tests and Procedures

General Test Information

Common Diagnostic Tests - MedlinePlus

Common Blood Tests - Lab Tests Online


Spanish Language Resources

Informacion General de la Salud

Enfermedades y Condiciones


Care Issues



Other Caregiver Resources


End-of-Life Issues

Organizations with Resources



Diseases and Conditions

Megasites with "A to Z" lists of diseases, conditions, treatments:


Judging the Quality of Health Information

(adapted from Johns Hopkins University Libraries)

Evaluate health information by asking these questions:

Who is the author?

Who wrote the information? Authorship is perhaps the major criterion used in evaluating information. When we see information, especially on an issue as critical as our health, we want to know what qualifications the author has to speak to this topic.

Who published the information?

Who published the information? Publisher information can be helpful in evaluating documents on the Web as well as in print. For print materials such as books and magazines, the author's manuscript has often undergone screening in order to verify that it meets the standards or aims of the organization that serves as the publisher. This may include peer review.

On the Internet, ask the following questions to assess the role and authority of the "publisher," which in this case means the server (computer) where the document lives:

Is the name of any organization given on the document you are reading? Are there headers, footers, or a distinctive watermark that show the document to be part of an official academic or scholarly Web site? Can you contact the site Webmaster from this document?
If not, can you link to a page where such information is listed? Is the page you link to on the same site (which you can tell by looking at the URL or "address" of the page)?
Is this organization recognized in the field in which you are seeking information?
Is this organization suitable to address the topic at hand?
What is the writer's point of view or bias?

Information is rarely neutral. Writers always have a point of view regarding the meaning of the information they are presenting and many writers select data to include that prove a point the writer is trying to make. Even writers who are trying to be objective may weight the information in one way or another.

When evaluating information from the Internet, it is important to ask whether the writer might have a particular point of view or bias. The popularity of the Internet makes it the perfect venue for commercial and sociopolitical publishing. These areas in particular are open to highly "interpretative" uses of data.

Does the work show "scholarship"?

"Scholarship" refers to evidence of the author's knowledge of his or her discipline and its practices. Scholarship is demonstrated by how the author situates his or her work in the context of what other knowledgeable persons have written on this topic. Reading some of these other works allows you to evaluate the author's scholarship or knowledge of trends in the area under discussion.

Can you verify that the information is accurate?

Verifying the accuracy of information, such as "facts," you hear or read is extremely important, especially when you know little about the author or the subject. If the information is reliable, you should be able to verify statistics (such as dates and numbers) and other "facts" using a non-biased source such as a medical society or national non-profit health agency.

How current (up to date) is the information?

"Currency" refers to the timeliness of information. For documents, whether real or virtual, the date of publication is the first indicator of currency. For some types of information, currency is not an issue - authorship or place in the historical record is more important (e.g. T.S. Eliot's essays on tradition in literature).

For other types of data, such as health information on the Web, currency is extremely important, as is the regularity with which the information is updated. Check for the following criteria of "currency":

  • The document includes the date(s) on which the information was gathered.
  • The document refers to clearly dated information (e.g. "Based on 1990 US Census data").
  • The document includes a publication date or a "last updated" date.
  • The document includes a date of copyright.
  • If no date is given in an electronic document, you can view the directory in which it resides and read the date of latest modification.
  • Does the information come with advertising?

Internet search engines are not the same as library databases, which may be most apparent if you see "ads" popping up along with the information you are searching for.

Library databases contain information, such as subject headings, author names, and abstracts, that before the computer age were located in physical files such as "card catalogs." Library databases have been created by information professionals to make it easier to search for specific information located within library collections, such as in books and journals and videotape collections.

Some Internet search engines are also databases, but they are not like the databases found in libraries. Some Internet search engines support the cost of the search engine by selling space to advertisers. Many Web sites are also supported by advertising. The amount of advertising in a document, whether a printed magazine or a Web site, can be used to evaluate the quality of the information. If ads display before the information you requested from an Internet search engine, or a Web site is cluttered with advertising, it is because the search engine or Web site publishers have given priority to advertisers.

Remember . . .

All information, whether in print or by byte, needs to be evaluated by readers for authority, appropriateness, and other personal criteria for value. If you find information that is "too good to be true," it probably is. Never use information that you cannot verify. Establishing and using criteria to filter information you find on the Internet is a good beginning for becoming a critical consumer of information in all forms.