When your legs suddenly turn blue or you develop a mysterious lump or bump, running to the internet to investigate the potential causes is nothing new. The internet has been providing factual and not-so-factual information for more than a decade. The not-so-factual information has, of course, been the problem, but modern search algorithms are changing all that.

Now, searchers can get comprehensive information from the most respected sources, thanks to algorithms that do more than just search for the number of times a given key word is used or how many hits a website has. With today’s sophisticated search engines, not only will you get a number of hits on almost any topic, but the top hits will often be from respected sources carefully vetted for reliability.

The ability to quickly access information is particularly relieving when it turns out that your legs are only blue thanks to the dye used in the brand new pair of jeans you just started wearing, or the lump turns out to be nothing more than a harmless skin cyst. There are a number of times, however, when having medical information readily available on the internet can actually be a life-saver. Here are three ways web based medical information is saving lives.

1. Rural emergencies

When city dwellers have a genuine concern, they can just run to the ER or even a neighborhood clinic to get looked at by a professional – which is always advisable when its available. People in more rural areas, however, may not have such quick, easy access to a medical professional. Some American citizens can still live up to two hours away from a hospital or clinic.

Not only can web-based information help them make informed decisions about whether to make the trek to the doctor or not, but it can also offer life-saving advice for what to do until they can get to a hospital. The internet can offer helpful advice on how to keep someone that has suddenly discovered they have an allergy to bee stings from going into anaphylactic shock, how to properly transport a limb that has been cut off to give it the best shot at being reattached or even a tooth that has been knocked loose.

2. Outdoor emergencies

People enjoying the great outdoors while hiking, camping or boating may encounter all kinds of wild-life they are not used to and may not know how to act in a medical emergency. Modern search engines can help travelers find reliable, factual advice on everything from how to treat a scorpion or rattle-snake bite to how to properly transport a person with a broken arm or leg to prevent further injury. There are even a number of downloadable apps available that can give outdoor enthusiasts immediate access to emergency medical information even when they don’t have a cell phone signal.

3. Immediate access to peer studies

Non-medical personnel are not the only ones benefitting from web-based material. Medical professionals – including mental health professionals – also have access to immediate up-to-date information almost the second it is published. In the past, medical professionals had to wait for journals to be composed, printed, published and distributed, by which time information could potentially be months and even years out of date.

In addition, some journals were often prohibitively thick and contained hundreds of articles to read through that may or may not have dealt with any specific cases they might see in the course of their practice. Now, with services like MedWorks Media offering a wide range of publications from pharmacology bulletins and psychiatry articles, medical professionals can simply search certain key words to get up-to-the-minute information about any relevant breakthroughs in key areas of their practice. Sometimes the medical breakthrough that may save their patient’s life may have only been discovered just a few weeks earlier!