Many patients today turn to the internet when they have health questions, but they don’t always know where to find credible guidance. The National Cancer Institute offers a Web site with accurate descriptions of certain diseases and conditions and links to other reliable sites for more specific information. In addition, the site has plenty of Spanish-language materials. To avoid wasting time, read these tips:
Credibility: To be trusted, medical information sources must reduce the impact of bias and conflict of interest. All sources are biased, but credible sources strive to separate their presentation of health information from other motives, such as profit. They must also disclose conflicts of interest, errors in content, or procedural missteps. The above-mentioned tips should assist healthcare providers in identifying credible sources. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips, so take advantage of it!
Creating a balanced, comprehensive medical information portfolio. Organizations should offer both traditional and digital communication channels. While some physicians and patients may prefer traditional communication channels, the “anytime, anywhere” era is changing the role of medical information teams. While newer channels are increasingly becoming popular and meeting the needs of digitally savvy consumers, organizations should also consider the benefits of all channels. The right mix of channels is a key factor for delivering trusted medical information services.
Using the Internet: The internet is a great place to obtain reliable medical information. You can find information on health conditions from government websites, medical journals, and community health centres. But it can take a lot of time, so it’s best to stick to trusted health information. However, remember to research the source before following the advice given by a health professional. If you’re looking for health information, you need to be aware that some information online is outdated, inaccurate, or inflammatory.
Websites: Trustworthy websites provide balanced information and give the reader a way to contact the owners. The owners of trustworthy websites may include nonprofit organizations, federal government agencies, and large professional associations. Organizations like the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology are good examples. These organizations are trustworthy, but they also have an agenda. Many of these organizations have advertisements that may look like neutral health information but contain a paid component.
Surveys: A recent study shows that people are increasingly turning to the internet as their primary source of health information. But they still rely on health care professionals as the best arbiters of information quality. This may signal a shift in the way physicians view their role in medical information. Instead of being isolated caretakers, physicians will increasingly be viewed as trusted partners in helping patients sort through the voluminous information that is available on the Internet.
Regardless of whether a health professional or website is providing you with information, they should be consistent with the best scientific evidence available at the time. If a website contains statistical data or other information, the source of the information should clearly state where the information originated. In addition, websites should be written by a qualified person, not by an expert in the field. In fact, most health care professionals do not write the content of their own websites.