Written By Andre Nye, MD – Perhaps one of the most remarkable changes that have occurred during the period I have been practicing as a physician is the availability of health information online. It can be empowering and liberating but it can also be dangerous and misleading. Prior to the year 2000, it was not mainstream for patients to get health advice off the Internet. However, now it is very common. Much of it is good, however, there is plenty of medical opinions that are inaccurate, biased, and ultimately dangerous.
How To Find Reliable Online Health Information
When I was in medical school I clearly remember my professors telling me that I was on a journey of lifelong education. What I was receiving then was the framework for the medical language. I would go on to use this framework to understand the complex world of science and how it relates to medicine. I remember clearly wrestling with the concepts of positive predictive value, negative predictive value, number to treat, the power of a clinical study, and finally whether a study was valid or not. These are very important concepts to understand when you translate what you read, to taking care of a patient. The health-related information has to be accurate, unbiased, and safe. After all, I use it to provide therapies for my patients.
Having someone provide you with medical care is a human experience. It is a trusting and valuable relationship that transcends almost all others.
Sites for Reliable Health Information
When I look for reliable information online, I make sure that it is as clean a source as possible. Two main sites I use are, “www.UpToDate.com” and “www.medicalletter.org”. The opinions and recommendations offered in these two sources are peer-reviewed and are extensively studied after scouring the medical literature. I pay a subscription for these sources because I know they bring value when taking care of patients.
Free Health Information Sources
There are also sources of medical information which are free. Such websites include Web MD, health blogs, YouTube. There are also websites offered by some of the giants in medicine such as Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins. You might even find some information from the American Medical Association. There are abstracts of studies some of which give you a teaser look at what is in the journal itself. These are not bad but frequently they do not tell the whole story and certainly are not able to answer any of your questions.
Government Agency Websites
There is good information that you already pay a lot of money for. They have a great website and it is very easy to understand. For reliable health information online, visit www.cdc.gov. It is full of incredibly valuable information that is reliable and has been studied, tested, and reported to you with the help of your tax dollars. It is as trustworthy a source as you can find.
Ultimately, in my opinion, free advice from a source online is just that, free. However, it does serve a purpose. Free health information online can provide a baseline understanding which will allow you to get more out of your relationship with your doctor. Perhaps your physician can help you understand even better with some knowledge that you acquired from online sources.
If you are going to use information you find online to make a decision about your medical care, please make sure that it is reliable. Remember no one has your back like your physician does. Also, don’t believe everything you read.
Additional Sources to Consider:
Prime MD of Naples
Our primary care physicians in Naples have years of experience and are comfortable with all aspects of medicine. If an expert opinion is required, our Naples primary care doctors will refer you to a trusted specialist. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.