How to Get the Best Medical Information

Some of the best medical research from the most respected journals is often not available to consumers on the internet or from their public libraries. Few if any public libraries have the space or resources to subscribe to well-known publications such as The New England Journal of Medicine, let alone specialized medical journals such as The Journal of Neurosurgery.

How can you access this information to answer questions about your own health or the health of a friend or family member?

Here are some resources that are available to you to keep you well-informed about your health or the health of loved ones:


MedlinePlus is a consumer-friendly site from the National Library of Medicine that links you to authoritative health information at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government agencies and health organizations. There is information and carefully selected links to Web resources on 650 health topics. MedlinePlus also gives you access to an illustrated dictionary, directories, organizations, news sources, drug information on prescription and non-prescription drugs and interactive health tutorials.


To read the same articles physicians are reading in medical journals, try PubMed. With PubMed, you can search for abstracts of medical articles and sometimes access the articles themselves through MEDLINE®, an index to medical literature maintained by the National Library of Medicine. MEDLINE® contains approximately 13 million references to journal articles in the life sciences and covers over 4,800 journals published in the United States and more than 70 other countries from 1966 to the present. Several important consumer health publications like the Harvard Health Letter are also indexed in Medline.

Loansome Doc

If you find an abstract of an article on PubMed that you want to read, you can order the article through a service called Loansome Doc. But first you must identify a library that is willing to offer this service to you (see listing of libraries below). Then you must register as a user. Once you are registered you can order articles yourself as you conduct searches on PubMed. Fees vary with ordering libraries.


Health science libraries are libraries that provide medical and scientific information to health care professionals, scientists, students and the public in many different settings such as hospitals, universities, research centers, etc. The libraries listed here are health science libraries that have agreed to help Maine consumers obtain medical information.


Thanks to the Maine Ariel Project, funded with a three-year grant from the National Library of Medicine, many health science libraries in Maine now can send articles to each other electronically when they receive a request. This means you will receive the article sooner and that you will have a higher quality copy with sharper images in black and white or color than when libraries fulfilled these requests by mail or fax. (Check with the library about how you can receive your copy. Depending on the libraries policies, you may be able to choose to pick it up, have it mailed or faxed to you or emailed to you.)

The Maine Ariel Project plays an important role in keeping health professionals up-to-date on the latest health information, even in the most remote areas of Maine. In medical emergencies, health professionals can quickly obtain a journal article to treat a patient or make a diagnosis. Before performing surgery or doing a procedure, doctors can quickly access information about the latest techniques or research.

The Maine Ariel Project is a statewide initiative by the Maine Health Science Libraries and Information Consortium (HSLIC), a non-profit coalition of 45 of Maine’s medical, academic and research center libraries. The three-year grant from the National Library of Medicine made it possible for HSLIC to obtain new hardware and software for Maine health science libraries and provide training to librarians on electronic document delivery.