The internet has been the greatest force on the planet to get vast amounts of information out to the public. However, its decentralized, leaderless structure means there is no gatekeeper to determine whether information is factual or credible before it is published. This is especially problematic for medical information, given the potential repercussions of following incorrect or misleading medical advice.
Many articles related to health on the internet are produced by content mills and individuals with no medical training. Even so, this does not mean that the internet is devoid of reliable health information. It’s all about knowing how to find it. Here are some practical tips.
1. Prioritize Health Search Engines Over Google
Google is the undisputed king of internet queries. No one can match the sheer scale of online information the search giant has indexed. But Google is akin to a fishing trawler. Whileit has gone to great lengths to improve the quality of its search results, it is extremely difficult for Google to exhaustively review the trillions of indexed pages for content reliability.
You can use Google and other mainstream search engines to search for health information online. However, it is best to do so only after you have exhausted other sources, such as a reliable health search engine or portal like MedlinePlus. Health search engines are devoted to medical-related information only and have taken time to provide accurate, proven and reviewed content.