How Much of Online Health Information Is Correct?
More and more of us go to the internet to get health-related information. Many of us look for answers specifically on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, and other health-related forums and Q & A sites. But how much of this information is really accurate?
Today, patients and healthcare practitioners face a dauntingly crowded marketplace full of conflicting information, especially about common afflictions like treating the common cold. Common searches on Google and other search engines can often be intimidating and offer conflicting information. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between valid and invalid advice.
Many times, information that looks legit and is even presented as a testimonial is actually just a non-FDA approved, paid advertisement. What’s even scarier: Only a quarter of the people who look for information online actually check the source of the information. Much of the information people are reading, and perhaps following, is far from accurate.
One good tip in finding reputable healthcare information is to pay close attention to where the information on the site comes from. Many health and medical websites post information collected from other websites or sources. If a source isn’t clearly identified, you may want to be skeptical about the article’s legitimacy and accuracy.
Good sources of health information are sites that end in “.gov,” sponsored by the federal government, like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (www.hhs.gov), the FDA (www.fda.gov), the National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), and the National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov). Another reliable souce is .edu sites, which are run by universities or medical schools.