How Do You Find Reliable Medical Information Online?

Posted by DStayman on 10th February 2013

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A recent study found one in three American adults has gone online to figure out a medical condition. The study, conducted by the Pew Research Center, called this 35% of American adults “online diagnosers”.

Fifty-three percent of online diagnosers talked with a provider about the information they had found online. Forty-one percent of online diagnosers had their condition confirmed by a provider.

More generally, 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information of one kind or another within the past year.  This includes searches related to serious conditions, general information searches, and searches for minor health problems. This group was called “online health seekers.”

When asked to think about the last time they hunted for health or medical information, 77% of online health seekers said they began at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Another 13% said they began at a site that specializes in health information, like WebMD.

There are ways to search more efficiently for trustworthy information. The Medical Library Association has published A User’s Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web (http://www.mlanet.org/resources/userguide.html), which includes a set of guidelines developed for evaluating the content of health-related websites. The Association has also published a list of “Top Ten” Most Useful Consumer Health websites.

Included among the “Top Ten” Most Useful Consumer Health websites are:

www.cancer.gov is the official website for The National Cancer Institute (NCI). NCI coordinates the National Cancer Program, which conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients.

www.cdc.gov The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, is dedicated to promoting “health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.” Of special interest to the consumer are the resources about diseases, conditions, and other special topics arranged under “Health Topics A-Z,” and “Travelers’ Health,” with health recommendations for travelers worldwide. There are also sections on health topics in the news and health hoaxes. Information is available in Spanish.

http://familydoctor.org is operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a national medical organization representing more than 93,700 family physicians, family practice residents and medical students. All of the information on this site has been written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals at the AAFP.

www.healthfinder.gov is a gateway consumer health information website whose goal is “to improve consumer access to selected health information from government agencies, their many partner organizations, and other reliable sources that serve the public interest.” Menu lists on its home page provide links to online journals, medical dictionaries, minority health, and prevention and self-care. The developer and sponsor of this site is the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Human Services, with other agencies that also can be linked to via the site. Access to resources on the site is also available in Spanish.

HIV InSite http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu is a project of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) AIDS Research Institute. Designed as a gateway to in-depth information about particular aspects of HIV/AIDS, it provides numerous links to many authoritative sources. Subjects are arranged into “Key Topics” and the site may also be searched by key words. Many items are provided in full text, and information is available in English and Spanish.

Kidshealth® www.kidshealth.org provides doctor-approved health information about children from before birth through adolescence. KidsHealth provides families with accurate, up-to-date, and jargon-free health information they can use.

MayoClinic www.mayoclinic.com is an extension of the Mayo Clinic’s commitment to provide health education to patients and the general public. Editors of the site include more than 2,000 physicians, scientists, writers, and educators at the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit institution with more than 100 years of history in patient care, medical research, and education. The website has added interactive tools to assist consumers in managing their health.

MedlinePlus http://medlineplus.gov is the National Library of Medicine’s website for consumer health information. The site offers authoritative, up-to-date health information, without advertisements. A Spanish-language version, MedlinePlus en español (http://medlineplus.gov/spanish) is also available. A site for cell phones and other mobile devices is at http://m.medlineplus.gov. Additional resources include physician and hospital directories, several online medical dictionaries, interactive health tutorials, and information about prescription and over-the-counter medicines, plus herbs and supplements. A full description of all the resources available on MedlinePlus is available at www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/medlineplus.html.

NOAH: New York Online Access to Health www.noah-health.org is a unique collection of state, local and federal health resources for consumers. NOAH’s mission is “to provide high-quality, full-text information for consumers that is accurate, timely, relevant, and unbiased.” Information is arranged in alphabetical “Health Topics” which are then narrowed to include definitions, care and treatment, and lists of information resources. Information is available in both English and Spanish, and the majority of items are provided in full text.MP900443136[1]

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