The so-called Information Superhighway may lead to some pretty shabby places. When internet searchers seek medical information they may well end up at some inaccurate, unreliable or outdated online sources.
Although most internet users turn to general-purpose search engines to find health related information, the majority don’t bother to check the source and date of the information they find, according to a new study from the Pew Internet Project.
Seventy-five percent of health searchers say they check the source and date of the information they find using search engines “only sometimes,” “hardly ever,” or “never.” A comparatively small group (15%) say they “always” check the source and date of the health information they find online, while another 10% say they do “most of the time.”
The report suggests that one potential reason for this lack of due-diligence lies with the health information sites themselves: A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that fewer than 2% of popular health sites display the source and date of the information on their pages.
Even so, this lack of scrutiny suggests that many people are not being careful about questioning the credibility or reliability of the health related information they’re finding online, and could in fact be relying on incorrect or even potentially dangerous sources.
The findings echo those presented in another Pew report from last year, where Pew found that most people said they were confident in their searching skills, yet didn’t really understand how search engines worked.
From my computer in Florida I regularly obtain medical information as part of the investigation and preparation of claims for my injured clients. I try to limit my searches, however, to only very reputable and comprehensive medical sources. Some of these sources require a subscription, but some are free to everyone.