Today, finding health-related information online is fairly easy. Whether you’re looking for a doctor, medical care, or medication, good online research can help you find solutions to your health issues.
However, poor research can get you inaccurate medical information, less than professional physicians, or unapproved drugs, which can be very dangerous.
If you feel overwhelmed by the volume of health content out there, don’t let it stop you from finding reliable medical professionals and solutions online. This article will help you determine whether health information is coming from reliable sources in order to make educated and informed decisions.
Finding a Reliable Doctor and Medical Services Online
Find a Doctor Online
The simplest way to find a doctor online is by typing keywords such as ‘doctor’, ‘physician’, ‘cardiologist’, ‘oncologist’, etc. followed by your city and state in Google. For example, “cardiologist in Mansfield, Ohio” will get you a list of local hospitals and private practices to start with your search.
Another way to find a doctor online is to go to your local hospital’s site and browse through their directory and contact info.
Research the Doctor on the Web
Once you find a doctor, you need to make sure he/she is the right match. Here’s how to find out.
Turn to Google
Some doctors only appear on doctor rating sites, while others have websites of their practice where you can get plenty of information, including their education or patients’ testimonials.
You can also check the doctor’s social media profiles. For instance, a LinkedIn profile works as an online CV, whereas a Twitter profile can tell you more about the doctor’s personality.
In some cases, you may even find your doctor’s TV appearances or articles written about him.
Check Rating Websites
Rating sites are today’s word of mouth. They’re the places where people rate doctors and leave comments about their services.
When checking for online reviews about a certain doctor, pay attention to volume. The more reviews you find, the more accurate your assessment will be. Also, make sure to check several rating sites. One
unsatisfied patient may leave several negative comments on a certain site under different names. Checking multiple rating sites will prevent you from making a hasty judgment.
In order to determine whether a doctor is right for you, focus on more specific reviews. For instance, “poor service” doesn’t really tell you anything but a review that lets you know whether the doctor monitored the case closely or gave you the needed medicine is much more informative.
Finally, pay attention to patterns. For example, five similar complaints on five different rating sites should raise a red flag.
Check for Board Certification
Board certification often indicates quality of services. Use the Certification Matters by the The American Board of Medical Specialties; all you need to do is type the doctor’s name to check if he is certified.
To find out if your doctor meets particular quality standards, go to the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s site. Finally, you can also find information about any legal judgments of disciplinary actions on the Federation of State Medical Board’s website.
Once you have gathered information from all the above-listed sources, analyze it in conjunction with other sources, such as friends’ recommendations. It’s also wise to call the practice and ask questions or meet the doctor in person before making the final decision.
Finding Reliable Health Information Online
Sourced Facts and Stats
Look for medical information on reliable and trustworthy sites such as those affiliated with hospitals, government agencies, universities, as well as major public health organizations, like the American Cancer Society. These organizations provide quality articles based on facts as well as credible information on diseases, treatments, and medication.
Reliable health sites should either provide credible sources for the data they use or results from their own research in a form of hyperlinks. Click on these hyperlinks to be 100% sure the facts and stats are coming from trusted sources.
Check the Author Bylines
Credible medical content should be written by competent health professionals like doctors (M.D) and nurses (R.N). Their bylines often appear either at the end or at the beginning of the article.
In case the piece of content is written by a person who isn’t a health care professional, it should be either reviewed or edited by somebody with medical credentialing. Never trust articles that are based on personal experiences and opinions or those promising overnight results and miraculous cures.
Check if the Site is Selling a Product
If the content on the site is published by a medical company, chances are it’s not accurate. For instance, if you’re looking for tips on how to reduce cholesterol levels and the information you’re reading is published by a pharmaceutical company which sells prescription drugs that lower cholesterol, then the article may be designed to recommend its product and emphasize its benefits. Ideally, you should rely on neutral content providers whose aim is to educate instead of to sell certain products.
Check When the Article Was Published
In order to be sure you’re not reading outdated information, check the date when the article was published or updated. Medicine is constantly changing and scientists are discovering new information that helps maintain general wellbeing, prevent diseases, and lower health risks. To stay on the safe side, look for health content published no more than 2 years ago.
Be Wary of Sites That Ask You to Share Personal Info
If a site is asking you to provide personal info, especially anything other than your name and email, make sure to know what it’s going to be used for. Stay away from health websites that ask you to pay or provide credit card details in order to access their content and choose free resources instead.
Look for Contact Information
Any reliable website providing medical information should have representatives available to answer users’ questions. If you can’t see any contact info, chances are the site is operated by unreliable personnel and probably offers unreliable content. Make sure that the site has transparent and easily accessible policies and that its phone numbers, chatbots, and emails aren’t fake.
Check the Site’s Domain
Check the last two or three characters that appear after the dot at the end of the URL to get a sense of whether the site is reliable or not. For instance, the ‘gov’ domain is used by US government agencies only, whereas the ‘edu’ domain is used by institutions of higher learning. These domains indicate that the site is run by reputable staff and that it offers quality content. The ‘com’ domain, on the other hand, indicates a commercial site and ‘org’ usually belongs to entities that support a certain cause. You could still find credible info on these sites but there’s a possibility they could be biased.