Health Care Online : Is this information for real
Many people search the internet to find information about medical problems, various health issues or to find a health care provider. However, not all the information on the world wide web is credible. How is the patient supposed to know if what they are reading is reliable? Here are some questions to consider in evaluating health information from the internet.
First, ask yourself who is responsible for this content? Is it a special interest group, non-profit, for profit, professional association, government agency? Is there an attempt to sell you a cure?
When reading an article are you able to tell who the author is? Can you discern the qualifications or credentials? Does the author have any professional affiliations with major health or medical institutions?
Has the information been reviewed by other medical professionals? Or an advisory board?
Does the article provide sources for it’s information? For example if the article reads “95% survival rate related to . . . ” where did this number come from? And what exactly does survival mean? Just a side note (Many times people assume that a survival rate is the same as the opposite of death. The clarifying point is that survival rate takes into account a particular amount of time (e.g. 5 year survival, 3 year survival, 1 year survival rate etc.). Without qualifying what is meant by the terms used people can be led to believe many false claims.
Is there a way to contact the sponsor of the information for clarification of the material provided?
How is the site offering the information financially supported?
Is the health information current? Keep in mind health information seems to change very quickly. Ask yourself how recent is the information?
If you are asked to register for more information is it made clear how your personal information can and will be used? Does the site ask you to send money or for credit card or social security numbers? This should be a red flag that you should look at a different web site.
Of course anytime you find information online you should speak to a trusted source of health information like your primary care provider? Also, see if you can corroborate the information across multiple sites.
These tips should help you evaluate health information on the internet and empower you to make better health choices.