Health information: how do you trust what you read?

Written by Victoria Louise Crump-Haill – Digital Strategist/Account Director‏

mom-searching-online
You wake up to find a dark rash on your body. What’s the first thing you do? Do you book an appointment to see your doctor or do you type your symptoms frantically into your phone? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone as over seven out of 10 people looked for health information online in the past year, according to a survey by Pew.

But does having the internet so readily available cause us unnecessary stress or worry? Or does it empower and help us to make better decisions about our treatment and care?

A recent report from the Patient Information Forum (PiF) provides a compelling case for health information. It states that giving patients access to high-quality health information helps to enhance their experience of care.

So how do you know whether to trust the information that you find online? There are thousands of health-related websites and social media channels – some of these are reliable, others aren’t. It’s worthwhile thinking about what website you use.

Surely if the article is written by a doctor it must be true, right? More often than not you should be able to trust this information, but look for a publication date. If it’s a few years old then the information may have changed. This isn’t just limited to articles written by healthcare professionals– there should be a date at the bottom of the page for all health information.

Charity or government websites and social media channels are often good sources of information. For example, if you want to find out about diabetes then the Diabetes UK website, Facebook or Twitter pages are a great resource. They even have a blog with articles written by people who have diabetes.

Basic contact information can be a good telltale sign of whether the website, blog or social channel is reliable. Look for a free phone number, email or mailing address.

Go to the ‘About us’ page to see who writes and reviews the information. The authors and reviewers should be revealed and information that is written by a medical person is often trustworthy.

Finally, use your common sense – look elsewhere to see if other places are saying the same thing. If you’re not sure whether to trust the information then speak to your GP or healthcare professional.

On the 25th September we will be hosting an event to discuss whether social media empowers the patient or causes confusion. For more information and to register, click here

Produced by Rebecca Canvin, Digital Content Manager, Brandcast Media.

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