Saturday, April 13, 2024

But I read it on Facebook!

The Internet has led to democratization of information access. Information that was locked away in libraries or simply not readily available to most of us can now be found with a simple search.

Along with that, however, has come a flood of misinformation. When you do a Google search, the leading links may be pure gold or utter dross. How can you tell the difference?

If you were to open your favorite social media site and read that Frigidaire appliances were suddenly bursting into flames, would you immediately put your refrigerator out on the street? I doubt it – you would probably check this out on Consumer Reports or call your appliance store. You would also apply your common sense.

So, why is it that some of my patients would come to a visit and say they had stopped their cholesterol medication because they saw a post that the medicine caused dementia?

Anything can be posted on the Internet. Some flagrantly racist or other hate speech may (or these days may not) be taken down, but grossly misleading health information usually stays on-line.

When you search, the top hits are often sponsored links or sites that have carefully managed their description to get a high ranking, with minimal relation to the quality of the content.

How can you tell if a site is worth visiting? Focus on the messenger before looking at the message. The best place to look for scientifically valid and unbiased information are sites maintained by the National Institutes of Health. These will always have the domain as part of their URL. Another great source of information is the National Library of Medicine, whose URL will contain

If these do not give you what you want, go next to websites maintained by major medical centers such as the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins or Mass General-Brigham. These will obviously lean towards attracting patients to their institution, but still have high quality content.

Avoid celebrity sites and those that are trying to sell products or services.

The quickest way to decide if a link is likely to be useful is to go first to those tagged .gov, then to those tagged .edu and third to those tagged .org.

When seeking health information, caveat emptor!

Prescription for Bankruptcy. Buy the book on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, for this advice, Edward. I do tend to look on internet when something's bothering me.