All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction and should not take the place of health care or services you may need. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finding Health Information on the Internet

One of my first posts when I started this blog was about how to evaluate the quality of the health information you find online. In this day and age virtually anyone can post anything on the Internet so it's important that you evaluate the information you find. Since that original post was many months ago, I thought I'd revisit the subject.

My goal with this blog is to provide links to quality information on a wide range of subjects so you don't have to wonder about the quality of the information. Over the 22 years I was a medical librarian, I gained a lot of insight and knowledge about quality health information.

Do not use Google to search about your diagnosis! Google is a great search engine, but it does not distinguish between what is good information and what is garbage. Like I said, anyone can post anything so beware! Those of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning know that I provide a lot of links from MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health). (I will provide links below for all web sites I mention.) MedlinePlus is probably the best place to start when you need to look up information. They have over 800 health topics with information from over 1,000 organizations, databases for drugs and supplements and much more. You can be confident that any information you find on MedlinePlus is quality information.

Other things to consider when evaluating a web site:

Who developed the web site? Is the author clearly identified? Are the credentials of the author listed? Since anyone can post information, it is vital that you check to make sure the person giving the information is qualified to give that information. If the site does not identify the author, then that information is suspect.

Does the page show when it was last updated? Are the links to other resources still active? Many people post information on the Internet having no intention of keeping it up-to-date. That's why it's important to check for a date to be sure the information is current.

Is contact information provided so that you can e-mail, call, or write the author? If there is no contact information, then it is difficult to ascertain the validity of the information and the authority of the author.

What is the purpose of the information? Assess the reason for the information provided. Are they trying to sell you something or persuade you to do something or is the information provided for informational purposes only? If the page is designed for commercial purposes only, then there may be conflict of interest with the information provided. It is best to stick with non-commercial sites.

Can the information be verified in other sources? If a web site is not well documented, it is especially important to verify the information in other sources. If you ever find a difference in the information, it is important you check with a health care provider for clarification.

Some great resources for health information:

MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine.

Top 100 List: Health Websites You Can Trust (from the Consumer and Patient Health Information Section of the Medical Library Association)

NOAH: New York Online Access to Health (organization composed of a number of New York City Libraries)

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