More and more consumers are going online for health information. There are many advantages to using the internet: information is readily accessible, often free, may be up-to-date, and can be comprehensive and factual. On the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of content that is false, inaccurate, and misleading.
Here are some methods that can help you best use the internet to obtain health information:
There are several credible websites that offer guidelines for evaluating health information on the internet: One of the most highly-respected sites, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) provides the following tips that highlight important criteria to consider when evaluating health information on the web.
Web Research Checklist (Print)
NCCAM and the FDA encourage healthy skepticism as you seek and evaluate web-based health information. As you surf, keep asking:
To find specific scientific evidence on a topic, try PubMed. PubMed provides free internet access to resources contained in Medline (an online database of health information from the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health). Through PubMed, you can access 15 million article citations going back to the 1950s.
The PubMed website offers these search tips:
To conduct a PubMed search, simply enter your search terms and click Go. PubMed will automatically run the search and display citations for the articles. You can click on most articles to read an abstract, which will provide you with a brief overview of the study.
In many situations, integrative therapies and conventional approaches work well together. Integrative therapies can be (and are often) used in conjunction with standard biomedical therapies and procedures. For example, integrative modalities can help with pain relief and the fear associated with certain tests and procedures.
A good way to become familiar with different integrative therapies is to visit the NCCAM website to see if NCCAM has any information or scientific findings to report about a particular therapy.
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information about integrative therapies and about NCCAM. Services include fact sheets, other publications, and searches of federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
Remember also that you can use CAM on PubMed to search this free government database for information on integrative therapies and healing practice. Many of the other sites listed in the "Learn More' tab have information on integrative therapies.
You can find valuable health information online, but you need to evaluate it carefully first. Make sure you are consulting a reputable site, and evaluate all claims closely—if they sound too good to be true, they probably are. You can get great information from several government sites, including PubMed.
Think about "bookmarking" the following websites, which contain resources, articles, and updates.
These sites offer good evaluative content:
Think about a health site that you use. Do you know the following information about the site? (Print this checklist.)
|Do I know?||Yes |
|Who pays for the site?|
|Where the information comes from?|
|How current the information is?|
|How the site chooses to link to other sites?|
|What information about me the site collects, and why?|
If you can answer yes to most of these questions, you are a savvy web seeker. If you don't know some of these answers, you might want to check the site further to determine if you can trust the information found there.