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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Evaluating Consumer Health Web Sites

From time to time I like to repeat posts that I think are important in case you missed them the first time around.  A while back I posted information on evaluating health web sites.  I think it is important to repeat that from time to time to remind everyone of the importance of making sure the information is authoritative and up-to-date.  Here is some helpful information on how to evaluate health web sites:

Since it is possible for virtually anyone to post information on a web page, it is important to evaluate the information you find. Here are some points to look at when evaluating health sites:

1. Who developed this site? Is an author clearly identified? Are the credentials of the author listed?
It is always best to seek information from a “known quantity”. Find out as much as you can about the author or organization posting the health information. This may be expressed in listed credentials about the person or a description of the organization providing the site.

2. Does the page show when it was last updated? Are the links to other resources still active?
Many people have placed information on the web as a one-time effort without ever providing updated information. A date on the page will help you to assess if the information is current. Check to see if the links are current. If they aren’t, this may mean that the page hasn’t been updated.

3. Is contact information provided so that you can e-mail, call, or write the author?
Direct connection to the organization or author provides a mechanism for you to ask questions about the origin of the information on the site, and the authority of the author.

4. What is the purpose of the information?
Assess the reason for the information provided. Is the language of the article persuasive, trying to lead you to purchase something or join a program or is the information provided for informational purposes only? If the page is designed for commercial purposes, there may be conflict of interest with the information provided. It is best to stick with non-commercial sites.

5. Can the information be verified in other sources?
If a web site is not well documented, it is especially important to verify the information you find in other sources. If any questions arise about information discovered in any source, those questions should be directed back to a health care provider.

Here are some quality health web sites:

MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine

NOAH (New York Online Access to Health)

HealthFinder from the National Health Information Center

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