Q:

How do you recognize reliable medical information on the Internet?

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Quick Answer

Individuals seeking reliable medical information on the Internet should determine where the information comes from, how current the information is, and who is responsible for the content of the website. However, medical information found online does not replace a doctor's advice, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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Full Answer

The first step in finding reliable medical information on the Internet is determining the source of the information, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Individuals should question the reliability of the information if it is not written or reviewed by a health care professional. Furthermore, statistical evidence must be provided by a reputable source.

The next step is determining how current the information is. Since medicine and health information are constantly changing, individuals should seek information that is less than a year old, states the American Academy of Family Physicians. Many Web pages post when the information was written or last reviewed. If a date is not listed near the article or information, a copyright line is usually listed at the bottom of the page.

The final step in finding reliable medical information on the Internet is determining who publishes the website. If the publisher is a commercial organization with a conflict of interest, the information may be unreliable compared to other sources, states the American Academy of Family Physicians. Health-related websites published by the government, nonprofit organizations, and colleges and universities often have more reliable information.

MedlinePlus provides an online tutorial for evaluating Internet health information, according to its website.

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