Searching the web for medical advice

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
October 29, 2008 3:57:15 PM PDT
One of the first things many people now do when they get a new diagnosis or when they get sick is to look for information online. Taking this step can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you do it.

Finding medical information online can be life-saving, but it can also end in frustration or with inaccurate, even dangerous information.

Social worker Jerri Rosenfeld works with cancer patients and their families.

"Most caregivers and family members seem to be overwhelmed with the info they receive on the web. A little scared. They don't know how to go through it. Sometimes it's more harmful than helpful," she said.

An important first stop for medical searches should be at the website offered by the Medical Library Association.

They offer a user's guide to finding and evaluating health information on the web.

There's even a section that explains medical words associated with specific diseases.

Dr. Harlan Weinberg, a critical care doctor at Northern Westchester Hospital has written a guide book of quality sites for hundreds of illnesses and conditions. He said patients need to consider two important facts when looking. "Where is it coming from and who is giving you this information," he explained. "Secondly, the timeliness. When was it published? Is it recent?"

Websites that end in .gov, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, offer information that is carefully verified for accuracy. They contain lots of current information on most medical conditions and even herbs and drugs.

Prestigious hospitals like the Cleveland and Mayo Clinics also offer good information, but one warning from Dr. Weinberg.

"I think people have to always remember that their illness is unique to them and they may have unique circumstances," he said.

Additional resources on the internet:

Book: Best Health Resources on the Web

A User's Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web

Evaluating Internet Health Information: A Tutorial from the National Library of Medicine. This tutorial teaches you how to evaluate the health information that you find on the Web. It is about 16 minutes long.

How To Evaluate Health Information on the Internet: Questions and Answers

Wide-ranging medical information:

Click here for more New York and Tri-State News

Report a typo || Email story ideas || Send news photos/videos