Online Health Information – Should You Trust It?
You or a loved one is newly diagnosed with a serious health condition. Or maybe your doctor has prescribed a new medication and you’re concerned about side effects. Or you need surgery and want to know what to expect. Where do you turn? According to the Pew Research Center, if you’re like 80% of the Internet users out there, you’ve looked for health-related information online. But type “cancer” into a search engine and you’ll get over 306,000,000 (yes, million!) results. Where do you begin? And can you trust what you find? Here are some guidelines to help you.
Things to Look for in a Legitimate Health Site
First of all, what does the URL or website address end in? If it’s a.gov (government site),.org (organization’s site), (educational site), the information there is most likely to be trustworthy. If it’s a.com, you’ll have to look closer. The site may be legitimate, but it may also be trying to sell you something, or contain inaccurate information.
Is there an author or organization associated with the website? If an author is listed, what are his or her credentials?
Is there “contact” information available — an address, phone number or email? Is there an “about us page?
When was the site last updated? Is the information current? (You may find this information near the bottom of the page).
Look to see if there is an HONcode or similar indication of accreditation. These sites must go through an approval process and follow certain ethical guidelines.…