With so much misinformation on the web, how can patients identify reliable sources of medical information online?
Fake news. Website scams. Home remedies.
With so much bad information on the web, how can patients find reliable medical information online? The good news is that there are reliable information sources on the web — as long as you’re visiting the right websites.
Patients can start by remembering these tips:
Here are 5 online resources for medical information that every patient can trust.
MedlinePlus is operated by the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine. This website is a reliable source of scientifically-based, peer-reviewed health information. There are no advertisements because it is already paid for by tax dollars.
All the information is written by healthcare professionals (MDs, PhDs, RNs, etc) and it is 100% available in Spanish. If you had one place to go for information, this should be it.
DailyMed is also operated by the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine, making it very reliable and ad-free. Information is sourced directly from the Food and Drug Administration.
The Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins are arguably two of the world’s leading institutions of medicine and science. Both are consistently ranked among the best medical providers in the country, and both conduct extensive medical and scientific research which keeps them at the forefront of innovation. They may be slightly more complicated to navigate than MedlinePlus or DailyMed – it can sometimes be hard to tell if you are clicking on something that is just information, or something that is leading you towards making an appointment or finding a doctor.
However, they make up for this by having extensive information on medical procedures. You can search for tests and surgeries and get a lot of reliable info. Both the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins are technically not-for-profit. Nonetheless, it is worth remembering that they are medical institutions that make money by billing for medical services.
The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements might be hard to remember, but it makes up for it with extensive information.
Once again, the National Institutes of Health provides ad-free, scientifically verified information on vitamins and supplements that can’t be found anywhere else. One great feature offered by the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements is direct citations to the peer-reviewed articles. That makes it easier for patients to look deeper into the medical research.
Education is empowerment. Take the time to learn about your medications and your diagnoses. But, do not attempt to diagnose or treat yourself based on any internet source.
Online resources are a great way for patients to begin their education. These trusted sources can help patients know what questions to ask, gain a better understanding of the latest innovations and help identify possible treatments. But, leave the diagnosing to a trained medical professional.
Always be cautious of any health website that sell you something.
It’s very easy to end up on a page that seems to be telling you something really important about your health — only to find out later that they are trying to sell you something.
They may disguise themselves as a news story, or information from a celebrity. Whatever the packaging, if you get the impression you are being sold something, then be skeptical of the information provided.
Jim Sliney, Jr. is a freelance writer/editor and a student at Columbia University where he studies Creative Writing. He is a Registered Medical Assistant and writes educational and advocacy articles for patients with rare and under-served diseases. Connect with Jim on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.