advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Can You Trust Online Health Information?

Can you give me an idea of how accurate and reliable Internet health sites are? Do you think it is worthwhile to learn about symptoms online, or would I be smarter to leave diagnosis to my doctor?

A
Answer (Published 5/16/2014)

You can trust my website. All of the health information here has been vetted by me or by medical specialists I respect and trust. I believe the same is true for many other health sites, but there are endless exceptions that could lead you in the wrong direction.

You can always get reliable information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has a huge and impressive online presence, and also from nonprofit institutions such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, as well as websites of major medical centers like the Mayo Clinic. The best rule to follow is "consider the source." If a large and respected medical center or a well-known nonprofit institution maintains the site, you should generally be on safe ground. But if you have any doubt, double check by clicking on the site's "about us" section. Look for a customer service team or some other way to contact the organization – that information should be available on the website's landing page. If you can't find contact information, stay away.

Some other precautions:

  • Be sure to look for the author of the information or a copyright attesting to its source. Example: Copyright 2014, American Cancer Society. When you finish reading this, look at the bottom of the page where you'll see my copyright information.
  • Beware of unsigned case histories or testimonials. However persuasive, if these don't carry the name of a real person who can be contacted, you have no way of knowing whether or not the stories were fabricated. 
  • Check the credentials of experts contributing to the site. They should be health professionals with expertise in the area of medicine the site deals with. Look for the initials M.D., D.O., R.N., N.D., or Ph.D. after the names.
  • Beware of any site that claims a single product will cure a long list of illnesses or an illness generally acknowledged to be incurable, especially if it contains a "secret" ingredient or a "scientific breakthrough," or is purported to be a cure doctors don't know about. Avoid any link to products or therapies that are "making doctor's nervous," or that "doctors don't want you to know about."
  • Look for dates on the site's documents. The health information should be current. For example, you'll see this article's "Published" date above.
  • The information should be written in clear language, not medical jargon. If you can't understand it, stay away.

Although you can find clear, current and accurate health information online, if you have a health problem that concerns you, see your doctor. Medical decisions aren't "one size fits all." Despite all the health information available online, there's no substitute for a professional who can ask targeted questions, examine you, and order appropriate tests. The Internet certainly allows you to gather medical information, but you may need someone with more training and experience to interpret it as it pertains to you.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here