Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to find credible health information online

Your physician says you have a health concern or you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition. You go home to think about the news, and you find you have many questions. Of course, asking your doctor these questions is always going to be the best course of action.

But if you want to head to the Internet to do a little of your own research, beware that this media space is filled with charlatans and misinformation. It’s almost as if some web posters think: “I have a computer. That means I can be a doctor.”

In short, not all health websites are created equally. Some absolutely offer more objective, credible health information than others.

Local hospitals

Rather than typing your condition into a general topic web browser, start your online search at the websites of your local hospitals. Many have posted online health encyclopedias and libraries (see the websites for several of them below). The content often is authored and edited by trained medical personnel and is written in layman’s terms, and you can search easily for specific information on your condition.

University of Pennsylvania Health System: www.pennmedicine.org/health-system/patient/resources/health-information.html

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital: http://jeffersonhospital.staywellsolutionsonline.com

Cooper University Hospital: www.cooperhealth.org/health-information

Virtua: www.virtua.org/health/default.aspx

Drexel University College of Medicine: www.drexelmed.edu/home/healthencyclopedia.aspx

Abington Memorial Hospital: www.amh.org/healthresources

Albert Einstein Health Network: http://einstein.kramesonline.com

Aria Health: www.ariahealth.org. Click on “Your Health A to Z.”

Fox Chase Cancer Center: www.fccc.edu/cancer/index.html

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: www.chop.edu/healthinfo

South Jersey Healthcare: www.sjhealthcare.net/healthinfo/hlhome.aspx

Christiana Care Health System: http://christianacare.org/healthencyclopedia

General websites

In addition to these hospital websites, you can find helpful and credible health information on the following:

College of Physicians of Philadelphia: www.phillyhealthinfo.org

Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com/health-information

WebMD: www.webmd.com

National Institutes of Health: http://health.nih.gov

U.S. National Library of Medicine: www.nlm.nih.gov/hinfo.html

Look for the HON seal

Health on the Net (HON) Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that certifies that those who publish health information on the Internet have adhered to a set code of ethics and principles. The HONcode guides website managers in setting up a minimum set of mechanisms to provide quality, objective and transparent medical information tailored to the needs of the online audience. For your peace of mind, look for the HONcode symbol at the bottom of a health website page.

The HONcode is the most widely accepted reference for online health and medical publishers. Currently the HONcode is used by more than 7,300 certified websites, more than 10 million pages, covering 102 countries.

While HON cannot guarantee the accuracy with absolute assurance of the medical information presented by a website and its completeness at any given time, possession of the HONcode seal allows a site to demonstrate its intention to contribute to quality medical information by publishing objective and transparent information. For more on HON, visit www.hon.ch.

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