ASK THE DOC: Everybody is guilty of using Dr. Google, but where can I find reliable medical info online?

QUESTION: Everybody these days is guilty of consulting Dr Google for medical information. where can I find reliable medical info online?

ANSWER: The best place to start would be the National Institute of Health (NIH) website called MedlinePlus at:https://medlineplus.gov/healthtopics.html

This website is managed through the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and has reliable consumer health information on more than 1,000 health-related topics that are in easy-to-understand, layperson terms. These articles are updated regularly and contain summaries of health topics, images, videos, tutorials, drugs/herbs/supplements information, a medical dictionary and medical encyclopedia, and directories. The entire site is available in Spanish and is simple to read (at a 9th grade level), is completely open access and contains free resources that can be copied and shared.

MedlinePlus is a part of the MEDLINE database created and maintained by the NLM that has over 33 million references to journal articles in medicine with access through PubMed, which is NLMs’ platform to provide access to more detailed citations and abstracts. You can search PubMed through any internet access for more detailed articles on a specific condition.

The NIH has an excellent introductory article on how to evaluate a website for accuracy:

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-find-reliable-health-information-online

Typically, websites that are managed by the federal government (including NIH and the CDC), medical/health care organizations (including the American Cancer Society), hospitals and academic medical institutions are reliable sources of health information. Be aware of several aspects of any on-line resource you find:

  • Who owns/sponsors the website?

Check out the website address (called URL) to identify who owns a site.

.gov identifies a U.S. government agency

.edu identifies an educational institution, such as a school, college, or university

.org usually identifies nonprofit organizations, such as medical or research societies and advocacy groups

.com identifies commercial websites, such as businesses and pharmaceutical companies

  • When was the information written and updated?

Make sure you know when the information on the website was written and updated. You want up-to-date health information.

  • Beware of miracle cures or claims, particularly if the website is asking for your personal information or for money.

And as always, your health care provider is your best option to explore health information that is specifically pertinent to YOU.

This question from a reader was answered by Deborah Schmidt, DO. She practices at Robert C. Byrd Clinic in Lewisburg.

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