Thursday, March 8th, 2012
by Ellen Woodward Potts
co-author, A Pocket Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Unlike my other articles, this one will not be related to dementia, but to a broader medical issue — how to find reliable information over the internet. When diagnosed with a medical condition, the first thing many of us do is to go to the internet for more information, but that can be a double-edged sword. Because anyone can post anything on the internet, there is a great deal of both good and bad medical information out there. There are some simple rules you can follow to make certain you always get good information.
Rule #1: DO NOT type the name of your medical condition into the “search” box and read every “hit” you receive. Also, do not search for your condition on Wikipedia. Both are apt to give you bad information.
Rule #2: There are very good, general medical sites from which you can always get reliable information. The Mayo Clinic, WebMD, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control always will have excellent information on a wide variety of topics. Major medical schools and hospitals often have reliable information and links posted on their websites.
Rule #3: Go to the website of the national association for the condition in question —- the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, etc. If you don’t know the name of the association, ask your doctor.
Rule #4: Another very reliable resource is the website for the medical specialty that treats your specific illness — the American Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, and so on. Your doctor can give you the name of the association.
If you get all your medical information from the sources listed in the categories above, you will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the information you’re reading is reliable.
It is VERY helpful to the physician to speak to a patient or family after they have read reliable educational materials. They can ask much better questions and can understand the answers the physician gives on a much deeper level. So certainly go to the internet, but don’t waste your time on sites that are not reputable.