Can You Get Reliable Health Information Online?

Individuals have more access to health information than they’ve ever had before. A simple query online can yield advice from hundreds of different sources. And while access to that information has improved through advanced search engines, the concern now is whether we’re always receiving quality and reliable advice.

Can you trust information that’s disseminated online?

One recent survey discovered 60-percent of all adults have researched health information online at least once in their lives. Meanwhile, another study reviewed online health-related research and concluded that online health information aimed at consumers is often biased, inaccurate, or sometimes even flawed.

What’s the problem? Why is it that so many health websites publish misleading and inaccurate information?

It could be that some health-related sites have a hidden agenda behind the information they’re providing to the consumer. Drug companies could finance groups promoting awareness for previously unrecognized conditions to create consumer demand for new medications – a tactic known as disease mongering.

According to Dartmouth Medical School researchers, restless leg syndrome didn’t become a diagnosed disease until a drug company developed a medication to treat it. Furthermore, a recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that many health advocacy groups which took funding from drug companies failed to disclose this fact to consumers.

The Solution

It’s not practical to make an appointment with a physician for every health question you come across. So the solution isn’t to cut all ties to the internet, but rather to use it selectively. Here are two tips:

1. Before trusting a health-related website and its information, ask yourself the following questions:

* Is the information current?
* Where did the information come from?
* Who’s contributing and controlling the website’s content?

2. Only use websites that have been certified by a quality rating organization.

  • One example would be the Health On the Net Foundation (HON). Use sites which have been otherwise deemed trustworthy. HON’s search engine will only show results from websites providing objective information that’s consistent with sound scientific evidence, such as by the Healthfinder.gov website. The nonprofit website FamilyDoctor.org, which is supported by the American Academy of Family Physicians, is another reliable source of medical information for consumers.

The internet can help individuals become more informed about their health and more empowered in making decisions about their health care. However, one should never use the information on any health website, regardless of its reliability, to self-diagnose and/or self-treat.

At Gunn-Mowery, we have years of expertise in the field of Consumer-Driven Healthcare. Our staff will be able to address questions, solve problems and respond to you in a timely manner. Don’t hesitate to contact us to today at (800) 840-1243 or e-mail us at info@gunnmowery.com. Become our Facebook fan at Facebook.com/GunnMowery. And read our newsletter here.

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