Vetting medical information online Why is it important How to do it
Why it is important to take the time to evaluate online information. • Anyone with basic computer skills can make a website. • There are even ways to make a free website with no knowledge of web development. • Anyone can say whatever they want online. • Opinions are often expressed as facts. • There is usually some alternative motive for putting information online • Selling something • Promoting ideology/belief/etc. • Increase popularity • Etc.
Dihydrogen monoxide http://dhmo.org/
What is wrong with this? Most of the information found on this website is accurate.
DHMO = h2o = Water The information on the site is almost completely accurate – it was just portrayed in a way that made water seem harmful to your health. This site is trying to make point, but many other sites do this same thing. Whether the creators of the sites are deliberately trying to spread a false idea or honestly believe their view to be correct the result is the same. False information is abundant online and is often portrayed in a convincing way leading to those seeking information to find false, and potentially harmful, information.
One more http://www.martinlutherking.org/
Who made this site? At the bottom of the page you see: Clicking on the link takes you to Stormfront:
More examples: • Beer Belly • All About Explorers • Tree Octopus • fafsa.com(not fafsa.gov) False or incomplete information online is annoying and inconvenient, but when it comes to health information, it can be dangerous.
What to do about it The information online will always be questionable. The important thing is to be aware of that and follow some simple guidelines to vet websites.
In a nutshell • Domain • Author and Sponsor • Purpose • Currency • Content • Objectivity
1) Look at the domain This is an easy first step .com or .co = commercial .org = organizational .gov = government .edu = education .mil = military You can tell a lot just by looking at what comes after the “dot”. Government and educational sites are usually the most reliable.
.edu’s .edu/~ .edu/% .edu/users/ All of these represent personal sites of individuals associated with the educational organization. Any student staff or faculty member can make their own site hosted by the university/college/etc. Keep an eye out for these since they are not any more reliable than a .com.
2) Who is the author / sponsor? • Who is actually providing the information that is on the site? • Is the individual or organization behind the site reputable? • Think Stormfront and martinluterking.org • What other sites does the sponsor support? • Is the sponsor legitimate? • Think US Environmental Assessment Agency from DHMO.org • If you can’t easily find the sponsor then there is probably a reason…
Wikipedia Anyone with Internet access can create or add to a Wikipedia article. Anyone can also edit the information of other “editors” – even maliciously. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About
3) What is the purpose of the site? • Is it selling something? • Is it promoting a particular item or thought / belief? • Are there many advertisements on the site? • Are the advertisements labeled as such or blended into the site to appear as part of the information? There is always a purpose
4) Currency • How old is the information? • Most reputable sites will have a date when the information was last updated.
5) Evaluate the content • Looking at the sponsor, purpose, and currency of the site is a good start. • Are there many spelling or grammatical errors? • Is the information clearly stated? • Are there citations to reliable sources? – Where is the information from? • Are there editors or proof readers? • Does the wording seem biased? • The content should be factual and not based on opinion. • Are any certifying/approving/etc. organizations legitimate?
Tips on evaluating content • Look in the “about” section. • Is there contact information? • What links are on the page? • Look to see what sites link to the page: • This can be done using Google’s link: command • Search : “ link: _____.com “ (example: link:dhmo.org)
Okay, where do I start? medlineplus.gov Medlineplus is the place to start! It provides quality information and all sites it links to have already been reviewed.
You are kaleida Remember! As volunteers you are representatives of Kaleida Health. Patients and family are coming to you for reliable information and see you as a part of Kaleida. Inaccurate information can harm patients!