Unlimited access to the Internet the world over has been a boon for mankind. Nothing now is beyond the horizon of unawareness. All that you have to do is “Google it” to get whatever information you want within seconds. However, there is a flip side to it too. It is alright that you go for a bout of some online shopping or book hotels at remote and exotic locations for your vacation. But should you really follow the Internet advised path blindly when it comes to your health issues?
There is a natural inclination to treat medical websites with as much trust and faith as you would do for a site specialising in news updates. That studies have shown is not advisable. You have to evaluate how true the health information that you get from the Internet actually is and how much it can be relied upon. Most importantly, experts say that a large number of websites on health are filled with inaccuracies. So following their recommendations is often fraught with dangers that can have a damaging effect on your health.
A major lacuna with health searches is the keywords being typed in to get the information. Health related keywords must be precise and exact because search engines give results that are close to each other based on the overlapping of certain words in long tailed keywords. A study was carried out in the USA on this issue by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) on infant sleep issues through searches with “infant sleep position”, “infant co-sleeping”, and “pacifier sleeping”. What was shown by the search engines were then tested against AAP recommendations for medical accuracy.
The results were indeed surprising. Of the first 100 results in each category, 43.5% only were in line with what AAP suggests, 28.1% contained inaccurate information and the rest 28.4% were not medically relevant at all. Now, parents do not have the medical expertise to differentiate the truth from the false. Hence it will lead to dangerous complications if such information and medical advice is implemented at home on children. A great deal of caution has to be exercised in following results given in online searches on health.
Another way to ensure that you get accurate medical information online is to check the authenticity of the site. Users’ testimonials are one way because you will then know that others have been benefitted by the site. Similarly, check for the range of information on the site. This is particularly true for companies dealing in health care related equipment.
An example will help illustrate this point better. Search for tattoo removal techniques or equipment in Australia and you will be guided to http://www.universalipl.com.au/tattoo-removal/ at the top of search results pages. This is the website of Universal Medical Aesthetics, one of the leading importers and distributors of beauty care equipment in Australia. Go through the website and you will find that they deal not only in tattoo removal devices but a whole range of skin rejuvenation and permanent hair removal machinery too. If you are looking to buy one of their equipment, you can always go to their buyers and check their credentials and quality of equipment. By having a double check, you will be sure that the information you are getting on health care equipment is true and accurate.
Another surprise is that educational websites like that of universities or other specialised institutions (with URLs ending with .edu or ebooks or peer reviewed articles) are not totally accurate. This is because the information is not always updated or they have links to subscription based articles that cannot always be accessed by everybody. Hence, sites will have outdated information that should not be relied on. Blogs and websites of non medical professional individuals should not be trusted too.
While the Internet is considered to be a fountainhead of knowledge, it is always preferable to take it with a pinch of salt when searching for health related information.