How to Evaluate Health Information You Find on the Internet

May 2, 2023

health information

The quality of health information available online is a critical issue, particularly for people who are aging or have specific health conditions. The availability of health information can help you make better decisions about your care and improve your outcomes. However, you may find that it can be difficult to know if the information you are reading is reliable. In addition, some websites might be selling products or trying to sell you something else. It’s important to use the tips below when evaluating health information you find on the Internet.

Be sure that the information you read comes from a reputable source, such as a medical professional or a nonprofit organization. Also, check to see who is writing and reviewing the content. You can usually tell who’s writing and reviewing by their website URL (also known as a web address).

A credible source should share scientifically sound information, using citations as a standard for presenting evidence. They should be able to explain how and why their information is consistent with the best scientific evidence available at the time they publish it.

They should be transparent about their processes and practices, including who they hire to review their content and how they verify the authenticity of their sources. They should also disclose any conflicts of interest or self-interest related to the information they share and how they manage them.

Using credible sources to find and share high-quality health information is a challenge for many SMPs. They often lack the capacity to evaluate every piece of content, even if they have human-led QA programs and automated systems.

To improve their evaluation of sources, SMPs must invest in the development and implementation of an effective credibility assessment strategy. This can include both source and content evaluation, with a focus on high-volume, influential sources.

SMPs and their partners should work together to develop the credibility assessment strategy that is most suitable for them, based on the resources and approaches they have available. Specifically, they should consider the following principles and credibility attributes as guideposts for assessing their approach:

Credibility Principles

To promote access to high-quality health information, SMPs need to develop and implement an approach that identifies sources of scientifically sound information, aligned with the credibility principles and credibility attributes described in this paper. SMPs should also identify and share the methods they use to promote consumption of such information.

The goal of such strategies is to promote access to high-quality health information by enhancing consumers’ ability to identify and choose credible sources of science-based, objective, and trustworthy health information. They should also engage in public engagement to ensure transparency and accountability, as well as minimize perceptions of censorship or paternalism.

In the context of social media, this means identifying and promoting sources of health information that have strong institutional credibility. The authors define credibility as “likely to offer high-quality information and employ processes to reduce conflict of interest and promote transparency and accountability.”

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