This is a continuing series using information from the booklet written by the National Institute on Aging working with the National Institutes of Health called: Talking with Your Doctor. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 05-3452 August 2005 (Reprinted April 2010)
Do you search for information on the internet? It is a great resource but here are some questions to ask because not all information is reliable. The following questions may be useful to consider when you look at a health-related website.
- Who is responsible for the content? Is it a government agency, national nonprofit organization, or professional association? An individual? A commercial organization?
- If you are reading a particular article, what are the author’s credentials? Is the author affiliated with any major medical institutions?
- Who reviews the material? Is there a medical advisory board that reads the medical content before it is made available to the public?
- Are sources cited for the statistical information? For example, it’s easy enough to say “4 out of 5 doctors agree…” but where did that statistic come from?
- Is the purpose and goal of the sponsoring organization clearly stated?
- Is there a way to contact the sponsor for more information or to verify information presented?
- Is the site supported by public funds or donations? If it includes advertisements, are they separate from content?
- Because health information gets outdated so quickly, does the website post the source and date for the information?
- Is the website trying to sell you something? Don’t forget to talk with your doctor about what you’ve learned online.
That last suggestion is very important…don’t forget to talk with your doctor about what you have learned!
Next article: Talking to Your Doctor in Special Situations