The medical environment has changed completely with the introduction of the internet and the proliferation of web sites offering free medical and healthcare information.
In today’s world, more and more patients are using the internet to search for information about their diseases and for the latest treatment options. In fact, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey, more than 100 million adults in the U. S. are using the internet to search for health information.
Gone are the days when patients passively accepted the treatment offered by their doctors. Today, patients are partners in the decision making about their health.
So, the obvious question is – How reliable is the medical information you find on these free medical web sites?
By the way, the fact that there are incredible free medical and healthcare information web sites on the internet doesn’t necessarily make it easy to find good information.
For example, if you just enter the term Breast Cancer into Google a total of 130 million sites come up. Obviously, no one is going to look at all those sites –in fact, most people rarely look beyond the sites listed on the front page or two.
As wonderful as the internet is as a resource, you must remember that there is a potential downside as well. In the healthcare market, just like in any other market, there are commercial entities trying to sell you a product. Some products may be legitimate but some may be scam cures just trying to take advantage of a cancer patient’s desperation.
And, since the internet is largely unregulated, there is little regulation of the marketing messages.
So here are five tips as you try to determine if the medical information web site you’re visiting is reliable or not:
1. What Is The Ending Of The Website Name?
There are a number of sources of medical information on the internet which tend to be more reliable and trustworthy. These sources are more likely to be universities, hospitals, government agencies, and major public health and health advocacy organizations such as a national cancer society.
The ending of the web site can give you a clue as to the source. For example, the ending:
gov means that the source is a government agency; . edu means that the source is a university or another educational institution; .com means that the source is run privately and very well may be a commercial enterprise); .org means that the source is a non-profit organization.
2. Who Is Responsible For The Site And What Is The Mission Of The Site?
Look to see if there is any information on who is responsible for the site and what the mission of the site is. On many web sites you’ll see a link, either at the top or bottom of the page, which says something like “About US” or “Who We Are”.
Click on the link and see what information you find.
3. Is The Medical Information Presented On The Site Scientific Or Anecdotal?
If medical information is presented on the web site then you should ask yourself is the information scientific or not. To be considered reliable, medical advances must be proven in scientific studies in which many patients are involved. Anecdotal studies of one patient’s response to a treatment are not considered to be reliable despite the fact that the stories may be extremely compelling. So, check out the web site. Are the medical facts presented as the results of documented studies or are anecdotal, undocumented stories of patients presented.
Also, check to see if references are presented if the results of studies are discussed. Are the studies from respected medical journals?
4. Who Are The Authors Of The Medical Information On The Site?
Check to see who the authors are. What are the credentials of the authors? If necessary, you can even search using the author’s names to see how well known they are in their fields.
5. How Up To Date Is The Medical Information?
Medicine is a rapidly changing field and you’ll want to make sure that the health information at the site you’re searching is updated frequently. If the information isn’t updated regularly, they you may not learn about the latest developments.
The internet provides wonderful opportunities for patients to find the latest and best healthcare information. Using these tips can help you make sure the information you find is reliable and trustworthy.
Dr. Glenn Sheiner is a medical doctor and the author of the ebook and video tutorials Cancer Research Online Made Easy. . This downloadable package is available immediately and will help you find information you won't find on most cancer web sites. You'll quickly learn many sophisticated research techniques including how to find the latest medical articles on any type of cancer from around the world. And, how to find all the available clinical trials, including those from the world's most reknowned medical centers.