I’m a patient advocate and a writer. I’m constantly in the process of either looking up or sharing information about medicine, health and wellness. Let me tell you how I find medical information I can trust. But first…
JIM’S RULES ON WHAT TO AVOID
Dot coms are commercial websites. The “com” stands for “commercial”. Commercial websites are, loosely speaking, selling something. That doesn’t mean you can’t trust them it just means you need to be aware of their motivation.
For instance, a specialty surgeon’s practice might have a .com website full of useful information about the conditions they treat. However, specialty surgeons are in the business of performing specialty surgeries, so it’s possible they slant away from non-surgical interventions like dietary changes. Is that medical information you can trust? Probably, but you need to take it with a grain of salt.
WebMD.com is a commercial website. They sell advertisements. But they have also made their reputation on offering easy-to-read medical information. I usually will not use them, if for no other reason, I don’t like navigating ads.
Wikipedia (as an example of a Wiki) is accessible and easy to use. They provide tons of great information…usually. The problem with any kind of Wiki is that they are, by definition, open to be edited by the public. Did Plato really study under Barney the Purple Dinosaur? Is (name your celebrity) really dead?
For me, when I go to Wikipedia, it serves as a launching platform for a deeper investigation. I find myself in the references section at the bottom of the pages quite often.
FACEBOOK and other social media
Okay, I’ve seen some of the craziest sh*t ever on Facebook. It’s a breeding ground for BS. Besides, how do you know it’s not Russians making stuff up?
That said, Facebook and other social media platforms EXCEL at creating communities and that has IMMENSE value. So, don’t turn to Facebook for medical info, turn there to find other people like yourself who are living with condition X or Y and find out how they cope. Its’ really good for that.
|RULES FOR WHAT TO AVOID||EXCEPTION TO THE RULE|
|“.com” websites||Medical journals|
|Wiki anything||Use the References at the bottom as a jumping off point|
|Facebook and Social Media||Use for connecting with your disease community|
Even the best medical information on the internet is not a replacement for the advice and care of a physician.
JIM’S RULES ON WHO YOU CAN TRUST
I’ve written about this already about two years ago and I’m glad to say that my recommendations haven’t changed much at all.
ONE STOP SHOPPING FOR MEDICAL INFO YOU CAN TRUST
But let’s say you are sick and tired of remembering multiple websites. Is there a one-stop shop for medical information? Good news, there is.
Medlineplus.gov is a government website (thus the .gov). The information they post is in the public interest and I trust them more than any other source. There are no ads (you already paid for this with your taxes) and information comes from professional sources like medical MDs, PhDs, RNs, etc..
One thing I particularly like about MedlinePlus is that they help you narrow your sources. In the left-hand menu (see image) you can refine your search results by different types:
- Topic (this content is on the MedlinePlus website)
- External links (these are not on the MedlinePlus website)
- National Institutes of Health, and more.
Super helpful. A little clunky to navigate sometimes but the most reliable and up-to-date information.
MEDLINEPLUS DOES MUCH MORE
From the MedlinePlus homepage you can access their Drugs and Supplements database. Search for any drug and you’ll get a similar left-hand menu for sources. You can do that for lab tests, recipes, and videos too. It’s the perfect one-stop site for all your health and medical info.
Of course, now that you know where I turn for medical information I can trust, I hope you’ll add Patients Rising to your list of medical information you can trust.
Here’s some ADDITIONAL READING:
Managing Chronic Illness: A Guide to Organizing your Care. This webinar has supplemental materials that include a basic tutorial on how to search the internet. It might surprise you.
5 Sources of Reliable Medical Information Online. One of our most popular articles.
Jim Sliney Jr. is a Registered Medical Assistant and a Columbia University trained Writer/Editor. He creates education and advocacy materials for patient support groups. Jim has worked closely with several rare disease communities. He also collaborates with patient-writers at Patients Rising and leads their writing team. Jim is a native New Yorker where he lives with his wife and lots of cats. Connections: Twitter Email