The internet has an incredible amount of information available to anyone with access. It has a proven ability to save time and money, and in the case of medical information, it has even saved lives.
There are countless stories of people who have used the internet to locate information to improve their health and treat potentially deadly medical conditions. They have found urgent care on a convenient schedule and identified specialized treatments and facilities that can cure conditions that no one in their immediate area could treat. They’ve learned about ways to improve their health and prevent development of chronic health problems. They’ve even accessed emergency help via chat rooms when they were unable to dial 911. There’s no doubt that the internet has saved lives.
“We must be very wise about
what medical information we
retrieve from the internet.”
But this rose is not without its thorn. The very size, scope, and variety of information available online about health care can often be its downfall. As a result, it’s truer every day that we must be very wise about what medical information we retrieve from the internet.
It’s important to evaluate online information in three key ways:
Where The Information Came From
The internet can often be a recycling service, a network of information that gets passed around from one source to another, often losing accuracy along the way. Medical information can’t be handled like that. If you have a medication you can’t identify, you need a rx pill identifier that can give you a credible, reliable answer about its identity.
As a rule, anything operated by a university, a medical school, or a unit of government is far safer and more reliable than anything posted by an individual. That brings us to our next point.
Who Has Posted It
When the forgotten voter can establish a blog to discuss political issues, we applaud the internet’s power to give a voice to those who otherwise wouldn’t have one. But in the case of medicine, that is a limitation, not an empowerment.
Medical information is something that should only be provided by people who have earned the credentials one can only receive by following traditional channels. Treatments, medications and other therapies must have been subjected to rigorous scientific standards before being approved for use on patients, and many sites advocate interventions that simply have not been subjected to that process.
Who Has Paid For It
There’s no greater corrupter of information than money. Facts will be manipulated and altered as much as necessary to get money, and health care is just as vulnerable to this violation of standards as any other field. While it’s true that for-profit sites can be legitimate, they all bear some extra scrutiny and cross-reference from other sources.
Before you gather information online about how to treat a condition, look at who operates the site. It may not be obvious; you may have to pay close attention to banners and other ads to see who has a vested interest. If you are steered toward some particular treatment for everything you inquire about, you may not be using a bias-free site.
The internet is a powerful tool for education, health, and communication. That will always be true. But as it has matured, it has also allowed certain forces to invade and undermine its credibility. When your health is at stake, be sure that you know the information is coming from a source that is scientifically sound, posted by qualified people who do not have money as their sole motivator. In that way, you will find the best health results you can.
Have you used the internet to find health and medical information?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.