Interesting Articles Online Health Information

The Quest for Quality Health Information Online

One of my pet peeves is that citizen journalists and businesses can publish “health information” online and no authority has to certify the information as being accurate or tested. There is no “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for health information on the Internet. Often patients accessing this health content are grasping at straws, trying to find hope in the information they find online. And they mistakenly trust the information. This, for me, creates a problem.

A recent editorial in The Journal of Rheumatology explores the quality of health information on the Internet. The article, co-authored by doctors Amol Deshpande and Alejandro R. Jadad, discusses how the Internet has impacted the way we access and obtain health information. I encourage you to check out the doctors’ editorial: http://www.jrheum.com/subscribers/09/01/1.html.

The doctors list five broad categories that could be utilized to categorize assessment instruments used to assess the quality of online health information: “code of conduct (e.g. American Medical Association), quality labels [e.g. Health On the Net Foundation (HON)], user guides (e.g. DISCERN), filters (e.g. intute.ac.uk) and third-party certification [e.g. Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC)].” The doctors pose the question: Will we be able to develop a tool that permits individuals to assess the quality of health information?  With the rise of Web 2.0 technology, patients are taking matters into their own hands by speaking out about problems the health system has failed to acknowledge.

This is a really important topic to address. It will be interesting to see how we evaluate, rate and manage health information online as the Web continues to evolve. For more, check out the article in The Journal of Rheumatology: http://www.jrheum.com/subscribers/09/01/1.html.

Post by Dan Dunlop with Stephanie Cohen, UNC-Chapel Hill Student and Jennings Intern

3 comments on “The Quest for Quality Health Information Online

  1. Jim Rattray

    Online medical and physician “ratings” is the new Wild West. It’s a battle between data/analysis and “feeling.”

    There are many organizations, such as HealthGrades and Leapfrog, that are using analytical models (even though some may be flawed) to try and “rank” hospitals and doctors.

    But the Web is about “experience” and “feeling,” and we are seeing that the old Faberge effect (“tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on …”) often trumps data.

    Both are important.

    And therefore people need to research facts, gather opinions about experiences and then make a decision that is right for them as an individual. There is no one size fits all here.

  2. The Internet can be a chaotic place. Everybody posts their own news, some based on real articles, some based on hearsay, some based on their own opinion. The danger is when it’s passed down so easily, and a number of people jumps on the bandwagon, it’s like a modern version of he said/she said. It would be a relief if there is some way to build quality control for information, especially health news and findings.

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