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Jan-19-2013 11:30printcomments

Your Health and the Web

The key to benefiting from the Medical Web comes from learning how to tell whether a website has reliable information.

Salem-News.com

(MANAMA, Bahrain) - Much has happened with Medical sites on the Internet in the past few years. First of all the medical Web has become even more important for Internet users and therefore potentially dangerous as a source of information.

While plenty of reliable medical information can be found on the Web, users don't always know how to distinguish the reliable from the undependable.

Frequently, Internet surfers are looking for answers about their illnesses on the Web; and just as frequently, there’s reason to wonder whether the Internet is a hot spot for dated and inaccurate medical information and “snake oil” cures.

With a large increase in websites devoted to health during the last ten years, some of them profiteering, and an increasing number of people looking for medical information, trustworthiness has become problematic.

Non-approved drugs and unproven remedies stand parallel with legitimate medicines on the Web. Some websites offer information guided by their own commercial interests.

Surfers have discovered self-care on the Web, but the information found can sometimes be misleading or harmful. Your health is precious. It shouldn’t be risked by wrong information or improper medication.

One value of the Internet lies in its usefulness as a cross check on questionable medical advice and as a source of information that the doctor didn’t have time to give you.

The key to benefiting from the Medical Web comes from learning how to tell whether a website has reliable information.

In a recent study carried out by URAC, Garry Carneal, the president and CEO said "Searches for health information are one of the most common reasons consumers use the Internet," One of our greatest challenges is helping consumers find the information they want that is also accurate, reliable and presented in an accessible format."

They found four major problems with the use of the Web for obtaining medical information:

1) Consumers' ability to locate and evaluate health information online is hindered by access barriers for older, less well off, disabled, and non-English speaking people;

2) A difficulty in distinguishing credible health information from that which is not trustworthy;

3) Web sites contain inaccurate, outdated or incomplete information; and

4) Consumers lack of knowledge on how search engines retrieve results or the impact of paid placements on listings of health Web sites.


Consumers need to know that search engines don't retrieve information based on reliability. They scan the Web using robots to pick up key words from websites, and they give preference to sites that pay to get higher listings.

If, for instance, you type "best medical websites" into Google's search engine, the first one that comes up lists the top 20 medical websites.

PubMed produced by the National Library of Medicine has over 14 million citations for biomedical articles back to the 1950. The citations come from MEDLINE and various life science journals. Both abstracts and articles can be accessed.

This is an amazing facility for both medical professionals and people interested in getting medical information from almost any published source. Keep in mind that many of the articles have been written for members of the medical profession and the language can be difficult for non- professionals.

My favourite medical website is WebMD. It's loaded with valuable health information, medical expertise and clear content. They live up to their editorial policy: "to bring you objective, trustworthy, and timely health information.”

Stay well, but if you can’t, see your physician and then go to the best Internet sources to learn more about your condition and treatment that your physician didn’t have time to explain.




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