Evaluation of  Health Related Sites

A vast amount of valuable health information is available on the Internet. We  urge you to consider the source and quality of information found there.

The  organization or individual responsible for the web site should be provided on  the site. There should be a way to contact the information provider. Is an email  address, postal address, or telephone number listed?

The individuals providing the information should be qualified to address  the subject matter. Who stands behind the information? What educational background do they have  that relates to the topic area?

The purpose of the web site should be clear. The purpose should be to provide accurate and unbiased information about the  topic. When the purpose is to advertise a health care product or to promote a  particular cause, be skeptical about the information provided.
The web site should provide citations of medical articles or other sources of  information, and the reader should be able to distinguish fact from opinion. Facts are more reliable if they come from a published scientific study on  humans than from unpublished accounts, reports of a single person, or from  animal studies. Beware of information attributed to unnamed “noted researchers”.

Health information should be accurate and unbiased. The information should not be slanted in favor of a web site’s sponsor,  source of funding, or a particular point of view.

The date of last revision of the information should be clearly displayed. The information should be kept up-to-date.
Health information should be used to supplement, not replace, advise given by  a doctor. Parents should discuss information found on the web with their doctor or health  care professional.

The federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled the following list of typical  phrases and marketing techniques used to deceive consumers:

  • Text is written using medical lingo. Use of terminology sometimes disguises a  lack of good scientific backing.

  • The Promoter claims there is a conspiracy by the government, the medical profession, or research scientists.

  • Reports of case histories are undocumented.

  • Product is advertised as a “quick and effective cure-all” for a wide range of medical problems.

  • The Promoters use words like “scientific breakthrough”, “miraculous cure”, “exclusive product”, “secret ingredient” or “ancient remedy”.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO HELP EVALUATE HEALTH RELATED WEB SITES: American Accreditation HealthCare Commission/URAC Not-for-profit entity that establishes accreditation standards for managed care  organizations, including utilization review, networks, credentialing, and  workers’ compensation managed care. This organization has also set up a health  web site accreditation program.
Discern A brief questionnaire which provides users with a valid and reliable way of  assessing the quality of written information on treatment choices for a health  problem.
Health On the Net Foundation (HON) HON’s mission is to guide lay personas or non-medial users and medial  practitioners to useful and reliable on line medial and health information.