The Search for Accurate Health Information

By Earl Whipple

It’s easy to find health information online. The challenge, it seems, is finding accurate health information online.

That’s the important message that I took away from this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which Dr. Joseph Kahn, chairman of pediatrics at St. John’s Mercy Children’s Hospital, encourages people to be wary about the health information they obtain on the internet. He references a study published in the Archives of Diseases of Children that found less than 40 percent of the health information searched was judged to be correct and consistent with published recommendations. Further, eleven percent of websites gave incorrect information and 49 percent either did not answer the searched question or gave irrelevant information. These results are pretty alarming, considering the internet has become a major source of medical information for patients around the world.

At AstraZeneca, we encourage patients to proactively manage their health and I have always believed that the internet can enable patients to do so. Although your doctor is always your best resource for health information, the internet has come to be a resource for people, allowing them to research complex conditions and medications with great ease. But with such a plethora of false and misleading information online, it’s critical for people to make sure they are turning to reputable sources, especially when it may affect their well being.

Government websites like www.CDC.gov and institutional websites like www.mayoclinic.com are useful sources of health information online. Dr. Kahn also recommends that parents reference the American Academy of Pediatrics website, which offers data-supported information that is accessible and easily understood. And of course, be sure to talk to your doctor about any health decisions you make or questions you have about health information you find online to understand how it may apply to you.

What other sources of health information do you trust? And what steps do you think can be taken to help make health information online more accurate?

I hope that in time, we’ll see the statistics about dependable health information online greatly improve.