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Medical's web site gets healthy dose of new features, informative links

Community members now have a new resource for health care information that includes a description of services offered by MIT Medical and links to other web sites with extensive details about health and wellness, disease, mental health and even the effects of illegal drug use.

The new MIT Medical web site (, launched on Oct. 20 with enhancements such as easier access to health insurance plans and clinical services, as well as links to wide-ranging health resources like Healthwise, Go Ask Alice and ULifeline.

The web site developers wanted the site to be responsive to the needs of the entire MIT community, with resources that would, for instance, help international members get translation services, or students find general lifestyle or mental health information. MIT Medical plans to add more online services, such as secure e-mail exchange with clinicians and the ability for members to request appointments online.

The revamped web site has a section in News & Reference with a bulleted item on college health resources, which in turn has a link to Go Ask Alice (Columbia University's health education site).

Go Ask Alice answers questions about general health, relationships, sexuality, sexual health, emotional health, fitness, nutrition, alcohol, nicotine and drugs, including practical information about avoiding situations in which a drink could be spiked with a "date-rape drug" such as Rohypnol (see related story).

ULifeline, another information partner of the new web site, is a cooperative site created by the Jed Foundation with about 80 college and university members, including MIT. The site includes a "Self e-Valuator" online assessment developed by Duke University Medical Center that aims to provide "insights about a user's state of mind" and an "objective perspective if or when a user is struggling with troubling thoughts" of depression or hopelessness, says the ULifeline site.

Student input during the MIT Medical web site's development indicated that students want information about mental health when it's important to them--even if that's at 3 a.m. after they've finished their problem sets.

"We always have a mental health staff member on call, but students don't always want to page someone in the middle of the night," said Dr. Kristine Girard, associate chief of Mental Health. By the next day, students may once again be caught up in classes and assignments and not think about their mental health questions until later that evening.

"They also want the privacy and comfort of finding things on the web. During orientation, new students feel inundated with information. But when they need it, those pamphlets are no longer around," said Girard.

The web site also lists and describes the clinical services offered by MIT Medical and eligibility for using those services, as well as overviews of the three health plans offered through the medical department, and a how-to guide for choosing a personal physician or asking a billing question. The site also describes wellness classes, lectures, workshops and health-related programs run by students.

"This enhanced web site is one more step in our ongoing efforts to connect with the MIT community in a way that fits the culture of the Institute," said medical director, Dr. William Kettyle. "We hope the site will provide ease of access to a wealth of useful medical information."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 5, 2003.

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