Every day we are bombarded with snippets of health information: How to lose weight quickly, how to improve your memory, how to get rid of wrinkles. What foods to eat and what food to avoid. How do we know where the “good” information is? How do we know who to trust?
The internet offers a vast and seemingly endless amount of information, but remember that your searches may produce results that aren’t necessarily trustworthy. And don’t forget that the information you obtain on the internet could come from a biased source.
Take vaccines, for example. There are many websites either for or against vaccination, so be sure you get your information from a reliable source before making decisions that affect you and your family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts a recommended immunization schedule online.
Look to see if the website is from a commercial provider of the service or medication you’re searching. If that’s the case, you may get just the information they want you to see.
Check and see if the research is current. If it is more than two to three years old, it may not be up-to-date.
Make sure the story is written by a healthcare professional or cites someone with expertise in the field.
Be aware that there are many blog-based sites with information about medical services, drugs and health advice that are anecdotal and opinions. For example, there are nutrition blogs where people share recipes and advice, but they're not registered dieticians, and there are exercise blogs that aren't written by certified personal trainers. Their experiences can be helpful in some circumstances, but their conclusions are not necessarily supported by hard facts.
Ask your healthcare provider for his or her recommendations for reliable health care resources, and remember that nothing can take the place of advice from your primary care physician.
Dr. Debra Esser is chief medical officer and vice president of medical management at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska.