Finding Reliable Health Information on the Internet
The Internet is a vast and readily accessible resource for all kinds of information, including health-related topics. While it may be easy and tempting to enter your mysterious new symptoms into a search engine, it’s important to keep in mind that much of what you find may not be completely legitimate. That’s because the Internet is a veritable free-for-all, and a lot of the health-related information out there is simply based on pure impression or anecdote, with no scientific validity whatsoever. For instance, your search may lead you to a health-related bulletin board, where the expertise of well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) posters may be based on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or what happened to a co-worker’s husband’s friend’s mother. Clearly, this is not what you want or need.
Before consulting Dr. Google, here are some tips to help you navigate the minefield of myths and half-truths that are often presented as facts on the information highway:
- Identify the source – Ensure that the information was written or reviewed by a health care professional or medical expert. If statistics are included, verify that the numbers came from a reliable source.
- Locate the date – Research is ongoing, and health information changes continually based on new discoveries about conditions and treatments. To confirm that the information is current, look for a date or copyright line on the web page.
- Find out who is responsible for the website – Check the site’s home page or “About Us” link. In general, good information can be found on websites published by the U.S. government (.gov), a college or university (.edu), or a nonprofit organization (.org). While commercial sites (.com) can also provide useful information, you should be especially careful about checking the source. Sometimes, a company that sells products or services might present information that is not 100 percent accurate simply because it has something to gain by slanting things in a certain light.
Of course, your doctor is always the best source of personalized information regarding your health. Even if you find accurate and helpful information on the Internet, it cannot and should not replace or supersede your doctor’s advice.
If you have questions about a health-related topic and would like to consult with a doctor, please feel free to contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. No appointments are necessary at our walk-in clinic, where you will be seen by a doctor who is experienced in diagnosing and treating a variety of common health conditions.