Upon my dear friend’s diagnosis of a very rare form of cancer my first reaction wasn’t, “Oh no!” or even an f-bomb. The first thing that I remember saying to her is, “Don’t Google.” (Well, actually, I probably dropped an f-bomb in there somewhere!)
Now I am a stealth, rock star Googler. I love Google. I use it all the time. I even used it when I had FBC. The Internet has gobs and gobs of medical information right at our fingertips. In fact, check out these statistics: More than 70,000 websites disseminate health information…and in excess of 50 million people seek health information online. Wowsy. Bowsy.
However (& this is a BIG HOWEVER!), search engines have a good side and a bad side. Sometimes they can be both good and bad…simultaneously. Uh huh. This then has the potential to generate seriously baffling results during an incredibly confusing time. If you’ve been there, you know…
There are lots and lots and lots of reputable resources for information about FC (f-bomb cancer) online (Silver Lining). However, the pickle is that the same technology that allows reputable health care professionals and scientists to publish accurate and reliable medical information to the world also allows people to bamboozle by disseminating misinformation, pseudoscience, nonsense, and downright quackery. And, boy, do they ever! In many ways, the bamboozlers are a far more effective online presence than skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine. Just sayin’…
The thing of it is, when information is good, it’s really, really good, and when it’s bad it’s horrid…yes, a la Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead (I still love that poem!).
I digress…So, how to determine if information is of the highest quality? Here are a few suggestions:
- Begin by asking your physician(s) and nurses for their recommendations for information sources.
- Talk with a medical librarian.
- Try these reputable sources:
In addition to using your own common sense (e.g., if it looks like a duck and quacks – pun intended! – like a duck, then it’s, well you know…), The Internet Healthcare Coalition (IHC) offers these (great!) tips:
- Choosing an online health information resource is like choosing your doctor. You wouldn’t go to just any doctor and you may get opinions from several doctors. Therefore you shouldn’t rely on just any one Internet site for all your health needs. A good rule of thumb is to find a Web site that has a person, institution or organization in which you already have confidence. If possible, you should seek information from several sources and not rely on a single source of information.
- Trust what you see or read on the Internet only if you can validate the source of the information. Authors and contributors should always be identified, along with their affiliations and financial interests, if any, in the content. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses or other contact information should also be provided.
- Question Web sites that credit themselves as the sole source of information on a topic as well as sites that disrespect other sources of knowledge.
- Don’t be fooled by a comprehensive list of links. Any Web site can link to another and this in no way implies endorsement from either site.
- Find out if the site is professionally managed and reviewed by an editorial board of experts to ensure that the material is both credible and reliable. Sources used to create the content should be clearly referenced and acknowledged.
- Medical knowledge is continually evolving. Make sure that all clinical content includes the date of publication or modification.
- Any and all sponsorship, advertising, underwriting, commercial funding arrangements, or potential conflicts should be clearly stated and separated from the editorial content. A good question to ask is: Does the author or authors have anything to gain from proposing one particular point of view over another? Avoid any online physician who proposes to diagnose or treat you without a proper physical examination and consultation regarding your medical history.