The Tangled Web

There are literally hundreds of thousands of medical and health-related Web sites. Although it is true that knowledge is power, how do you know that the information you read is true or what sources you can trust?

In truth, online health information is something of a double-edged sword. On the plus side, these sites open up previously unavailable resources. On the down side, you need to bring a critical mind to your research in order to determine the accuracy of the information.

Here are a few key things to look for:
  • Look to see if the advice being offered is endorsed by a widely acknowledged healthcare entity. Is the information supported by research?
  • Check to see if articles include bibliographic references. Good patient summary articles will site the resources used to compile the information.
  • Read the organizations “about us” section for clues as to how the Web site is funded. Be wary of any site that seems to be trying to sell you something — such as medications or supplements. The information they provide might not be objective.
  • Check to see if information is updated regularly and not out-of-date.
  • Never rely entirely on the Internet. Print out your findings and consult your doctor.
  • Don't be fooled by testimonials. Taking one Web site's claims as fact is a bad way to make treatment decisions. One report does nothing to support or reject a particular treatment, so look for reports of large studies.