Q. I use the internet to research health-related issues and am concerned that the information I find might not be from a trustworthy source. Can you provide some reliable resources and tips for evaluating health and medical websites?
A. This is an excellent and timely question. Many health websites provide accurate information. However, many more are used to promote products or treatments. These often feature testimonials, anecdotes, unsupported claims and opinions instead of objective evidence-based medical information.
While caution is important in approaching all health websites, those with internet addresses ending in .gov and .edu are the most likely to be trustworthy. Sites with .org addresses are often reliable, whereas those ending in .com and .net should be considered with caution and only after rigorous evaluation.
These are some things to consider as you check out a site:
- Observe how information is presented and look for “About Us” and FAQ links on the homepage to learn more about the person or group presenting the information and their motivation.
Who runs the website and who pays for it? What might its ownership and sponsorship imply about its content and approach? What is the reason for the site? Is there a clear statement of purpose or mission? If there’s an editorial board, do its members have medical qualifications?
- What is the source of the information? Medical facts and figures require references, such as medical journal article citations, that can be checked to confirm their support of both the facts