When researching health information online, it can be difficult to filter the accurate and reliable from the misinformed. Here are some top tips to help you find information you can trust:
Look at the web address
Websites sponsored by a credible organisation such as the government, educational institute (like a hospital or university) or a charity are all reliable sources of information. Sometimes, the website address (called a URL) is helpful in identifying who is responsible for the content.
- .gov identifies a government agency
- .edu or .ac identifies an educational institution, like a school, college, or university
- .org usually identifies non-profit organisations (such as professional groups; scientific, medical, or research societies; advocacy groups)
- .com identifies commercial websites (such as businesses, pharmaceutical companies, and sometimes hospitals)
Check the date
Health and scientific information advances quickly so content can become outdated. Older information isn’t necessarily wrong but using the most up-to-date information is best. Check how recently the information was written – you can often find a publication date at the top of the article or at the bottom of the webpage.
Start somewhere you know
Credible sites are often linked to one another and will offer additional resources on the topic you are searching for. So, if you’re already a member of a patient organisation or found that the NHS website is particularly useful for example, start there and take a look at their recommended reading lists or further resources.
Who wrote the information?
Dependable websites will tell you who has written the information and if it has been reviewed by a healthcare professional. You can usually determine this by the author’s name or, if not, an email and/or mailing address might be listed (typically at the bottom of every page or on a separate “About Us” or “Contact Us” page) that will help you to identify where the information came from.
Narrow your search
The internet contains an inordinate amount of information and returning thousands of results can be daunting. Narrow your search by being as specific as you can, for example try asking a question: “what are the symptoms of CML”, rather than just typing “CML”. Using quotation marks in your search will return results only with that exact phrasing.
The internet can be a valuable resource in helping you to understand your condition and make decisions about your care, just remember to stay smart to stay safe.