Know and understand the difference between consumer health and medical information
Know a few good places to start your research
Understand when the Web will not be effective
Realize that quality filtering is of primary importance in any search for consumer health materials
Use consumer health information on the Web as a jumping-off point for conversations with your health care provider and for general facts and statistics about diseases, conditions, and treatments.
Everything on the Web is good.
All good health Websites are good for consumers.
Online communities are good sources of accurate medical advice.
The Web can answer all my questions about my condition.
All health Websites are written by doctors.
More than 60 million people have used the Web to look for health information
- Less than 1/4 of search engine first page results (the first ten "hits") led to relevant content (JAMA. 2001;285:2612-2621)
- 60% of all Americans have access to the Web.
- 67% of Americans expect to find reliable health information on the Web.
- Internet users are as likely (46%) to look for information on the Internet as they are to contact a health professional (47%) (Counting on the Internet; PEW Internet and American Life Project, 2002)
When to Hit the Books
The Web is useful for basic information and to contact other people suffering from your condition. The Web is usually not useful for depth. For that, you will need to visit your local consumer health library and use the books they have available. The Web is also not useful for individualized care—talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to find out the specifics of YOUR illness.