How to find medical information you can trust

The Internet has placed a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, but it’s tough to figure out what’s true

How do you find medical information you can trust? The Internet has placed a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, but it’s tough to figure out what’s true and what isn’t.

National Research Corporation says one in five people in the U.S. find health care information through social media. In a matter of seconds, we can find thousands of websites that can reveal all kinds of information — good and not so good. Some of these websites look very trustworthy, but where’s the “snopes.com” for medical truth?

Elmer Bernstam, M.D., MSE, is a professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He says there is no way to guarantee the accuracy of online health information. “Searching online is a very common and popular thing to do,” says Bernstam. “Whether or not it’s the best thing, that’s not clear.”

He says there’s no general rule to determine a good site from a bad one, but his No. 1 piece of advice is, “Start with a trusted site and go from there.” He suggests MedlinePlus, which is published by the National Library of Medicine, a unit of the National Institutes of Health.

A second idea is to use search words that are as “sophisticated or professional” as possible. For example, if you look up “breast lump” instead of “breast neoplasm,” you are likely to get twice as much data and most of it will not be specific enough.

A third and final bit of advice is to check information you find on one site with other sites. Bernstam says, “We have some evidence that if you’re looking at a particular fact, and multiple websites agree, it tends to be more accurate.”

If you would like to read more about reliable medical Web sources, go to: http://www.uthealthleader.org/index/article.htm?id=e75654f8-9111-4e9b-9dff-bf1240372d17


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