Published on July 25th, 2012 | by matt0
Finding Useful Medical Information on the Web
One of the great benefits of the internet is that it makes all of the world’s information accessible to anyone with a connection. This is blessing, but it can also be a curse. As a wise man once said (and I paraphrase): “Partial knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Knowledge, like a weapon, is best wielded by a trained professional. Therefore, even the multiplicity of medical knowledge available online can be dangerous in the hands most of us who have no medical training. When people try to diagnose symptoms in themselves or others, they tend to read too much into things and often “subscribe” sketchy remedies at best. But, the internet can truly be valuable source of info if you know where to look and you understand its limits.
Proceed with Caution
Before you attempt to diagnose your symptoms online, it is best to step back and take a look at yourself. Understand that most likely you will read too much into certain things and will assume the worst if a list of possible ailments pops up. This is especially true for people who are card-carrying hypochondriacs, and are prone to think of their pain as being the sign of a greater ailment than it really is. A recent Forbes article tells us that research done by groups such as Microsoft has concluded that searches involving symptom-like keywords often “escalate” in each subsequent query. For example, if the first query is “joint pain” the next is something like “osteoarthritis” or worse. Just understand that with a professional opinion, you really are just getting partial knowledge of your symptoms.
Keep in Mind that an Impersonal Computer Has Limits
Keeping the above in mind, I can’t stress enough how important it is to see a real, flesh-and-blood doctor who can apply personal skill to your unique situation. Your personal interpretation your symptoms based on an article you read by some guy you don’t know in Cleveland doesn’t hold a candle to the keen eye of a trained medical professional. So, before we begin talking about where to find adequate medical advice, I must stress the importance of seeing a real doctor before seeking to medicate yourself or others.
How to Determine Whether a Site Has Adequate Credentials
Anyone can make a semi-authoritative looking website. In fact there is a whole industry out there that seeks to do just that for the sake of selling ad space and products. Don’t be fooled by appearances but inquire as to the quality and true authority of medical advice sites. Here are some things that you may find helpful:
- Dr. Weinberg, an ICU Medical Director in New York, published a great resource guide for online medical sites. He recommends in the aforementioned Forbes article that people use sites like that of the CDC, Mediline Plus, the National immunization Program, the USDA, and the National Library of Medicine, as their primary go-to for medical advice.
- If you don’t choose to utilize his guide, then you can discern medical sites yourself by determining who the authors/contributors/editors are. Are the people feeding you information licensed? Are they medically trained? Are they practicing physicians in good standing in the guild? Reputation and accreditation are the keys in determining the soundness of a person’s advice.
- Also, keep in mind that government sites, the websites of reputable medical organizations, and those of educational institutions have the most credibility and the highest standards in research. Look for domain names that ends with .gov, .edu, or .org. Anything with a crazy domain is probably just that: crazy.
I hope that you find the above info useful in examining medical web sources. Remember, even if you find great information, it must still be personally applied to you by a skilled professional. Be safe and stay informed!
Author Bio: Kevin Wayne writes for Health Testing Centers, which has been offering direct access to health testing for 30 years. Click here to learn more about health testing.