Looking Online for Health Info? – Which Sites Do You Trust?

onlinehealth1With the swine flu threat increasing as kids go back to school, and the whole winter-illness season approaching, health concerns are gaining more attention.

At the same time, economic woes are hitting families hard. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 1-in-3 American families to struggle paying medical bills and nearly half say a family member has postponed necessary medical care to save the expense of a doctor visit.

As a result, more consumers are seeking medical advice online – research conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation found that 61% of adults now look online for health information.

Knowing how to identify trustworthy sites and information is critical to ensure your safety – particularly if you are looking for medical guidance.

So how good are you at choosing trustworthy sites and advice? Pretty good actually.

MarketingCharts.com just released a list of the top 10 Health and Medical information sites used by consumers, and 7 of the 10 carry the

Health on the Net (HON) seal.

onlinehealth2Note: I added the Health on the Net (HON) seal and placed checkmarks next to those that have earned this designation.

The other 3 sites in the top 10 – Yahoo! Health, MSN Health, and AOL Health – host user-generated content, but prominently state that their sites do not provide medical or any other health care advice, diagnosis or treatment”.

This is a critical point as Pew’s research also found that 60% of survey e-patients (37% of adults) have accessed user-generated health information online and that it has an impact on their decisions.

Among survey participants who said their most recent medical search had an impact on their health decisions:

  • 60% say the information found online affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition
  • 56% say it changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone they help take care of
  • 38% say it affected a decision about whether to see a doctor

Fully 42% of all adults say they or someone they know has been helped by following medical advice found on the internet. The flip side however is sobering. Three percent of all adults, say they or someone they know has been harmed by following the medical advice they got online.

Keep safe when looking online for medical advice by sticking to reputable sites. These will carry the Health on the Net (HON) seal of approval. The HONcode is the oldest and the most used ethical and trustworthy code for medical and health related information available on Internet. Their seal is only given to sites that have been accredited against a strict set of principles. If you do not see this seal prominently displayed in the lower right corner on the health, medical, or wellness website you are visiting, go to the Health On The Net Foundation and look up the website using their Trustworthy health sites search.

Remember that while there may be great information in blogs and forums containing user-generated content, you need to be cautious basing decisions on other’s experiences. You do not want to find yourself among the 3% who were harmed by following medical advice they got online.

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