A few Web sites, including one begun by former surgeon general Dr. C. Everett Koop, have begun to offer this service.
Once a person gets to the home page of www.drkoop.com, they click on "clinical trials" and get a list of medical problems and diseases. Once a category is picked and a study selected, a summary of the trial appears with a list of the exact kinds of problems researchers are looking for. If you are interested and think you meet the criteria, you can click on "yes" to volunteer.
In a few weeks, a questionnaire that volunteers can fill out will be added so they can know immediately whether they are eligible to participate in that particular trial.
There is a real need for volunteers for clinical trials, health experts say. Even for such major diseases as cancer, only 2-3 percent of patients are enrolled in clinical trials.
Another interactive consumer health web site, www.americasdoctor.com, soon will also offer information on clinical trials and provide links to other web sites where people can sign up.
AmericasDoctor.com, based in Owings Mills, Md., said it would offer links to Boston-based CenterWatch for its clinical trials information. CenterWatch provides information to help companies conduct their trials.
The AmericasDoctor site also offers advice and links, as well as interactive services that let users have live, online, one-on-one chats with doctors and other health care professionals.
"The online capability is designed to make it easy for consumers to identify, follow and participate in numerous clinical projects," Scott Rifkin, CEO of AmericasDoctor.com, said in a statement.
The National Cancer Institute also has a list of clinical trials on its Web site, although you cannot sign up online.