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Medical information can be found online on almost any subject, and websites and health care blogs number in the thousands. Medical information is one of the most highly searched subjects online. With so much information out there, it might be difficult to sort through it all, and you may be asking yourself “can I trust it?” That’s a difficult question to answer. The short answer is, some of it is trustworthy and some of it is not. Therefore, take some time and use common sense when searching medical information online.

As a starting point, health websites sponsored by the Federal government are generally good sources of information. All Federal healthcare websites can be found by visiting their website at www.usa.gov. Well-known medical schools, large hospitals or easily recognized organizations are also usually reliable. Another very good source of health care is the National Institutes of Health at www.nih.gov. As an example, they have information on managing heart health, living with diabetes, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, and so on. The following are some hints for what to look for on a website or medical blog to determine if it’s a good source of information. You must also remember that many people have created blogs about their own ailments. These many serve a purpose, much like talking to a friend with the same illness as you, but shouldn’t be taken as actual medical advice. Medical blogs are like testimonials, and should be taken with a dose of skepticism. Only professionals in the medical field are qualified to give true medical advice.

First, websites cost money, so the funding of the site should be apparent. Look for the following in the website address:
.gov stands for a government agency
.edu identifies an educational institution
.org is usually a professional organization (e.g., scientific or research societies, advocacy groups)
.com identifies commercial websites (e.g., businesses, pharmaceutical companies, sometimes hospitals)

Trustworthy websites should have easily available contact information. The home page should list an email address, phone number or mailing address where the authors can be reached. Also, the authors of the information should be listed and you should look to see when the information was written. New findings in the medical field are ongoing and the website should be regularly updated. The date can often be found at the bottom of the home page or at the top of the article. Last, but not least, does the website state its’ privacy policy? Never give out personal information or your Social Security number. If anything on the website sounds too good to be true, such as a “miracle cure” - then it probably is. If claims are made, look for the same information elsewhere online. If the information is legitimate, there will be other websites with the same information.


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