The internet has become a go-to for answers to our most burning questions. It is so easy to pull out a phone, a laptop or sit at a computer, go to your favorite search engine, type in a few words and get an answer within seconds. If you are looking for reliable medical information you need to take note of who wrote it, when was it written, and what website you have landed on. This is your health and a simple search just won’t cut it.
There are many reliable sites out there for medical information but you need to know what you are looking at.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind:
- First off, what type of site are you on? If you are searching a medication you may end up on a drug company’s site when you can get the very same information from the FDA’s website. Websites run by the United States government (the web address will end in .gov), non-profit organizations (web addresses typically end in .org), and university medical centers/schools (typically the web address will end in .edu) will provide you with non-biased and accurate information. If you are not on a reliable site you may as well go back to your search.
- Who has written the information you are reading? Is it a medical writer? Is there no author at all? Is it a provider who is an expert in the topic you are searching? You can always search the author’s name for proper credentials. You are best off using information written by a professional with experience in the topic you are searching.
- When was the information written? Research is constantly being done in the world of medicine and you want to make sure that the information you have received is current and up-to-date. Generally, you don’t want to read anything that is more than 2 years old.
Lastly, keep in mind that you should not be diagnosing yourself, or anyone else for that matter, without the assistance of a medical professional. You can gather information to bring to the attention of a provider but you need to keep an open mind. A provider will gather information including your history, a physical exam, symptoms you are experiencing, labs and imaging tests if needed, and so on. Medicine is an art and not every patient is the same.
Ultimately, the best place to find medical information is from your provider. Prepare for an appointment with a list of questions that you can discuss with your provider to ensure that you have all of the information you want and need. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor’s office if you have questions after or in between visits. You can also ask your provider which websites he or she suggests you use for information and further research.
Good luck with your searching and keep in mind how to determine if what you are reading is reliable and worth your time.