June 15, 2014

Be Careful of Incorrect Online Health Information

This blog is about incorrect health information and the internet, but I will discuss both health and diabetes information. The author of the blog is correct; there is too much information on the internet for all phases of illness and chronic illnesses that is not or even close to being correct.

I even strike out at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) because they have a one-size-fits-all philosophy for people with diabetes. The last couple of years have improved slightly, but when an organization accepts funds from Big Pharma and other related sources, you know that the advice is questionable at best. In addition the ADA is for doctors and does very little to help patients. Until recently, even the nutrition therapy/advice was only one-size-fits-all.

Even the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) is for doctors and does little for patients. They are also a one-size-fits-all group and don't like to vary from this. They also advocate for Big Pharma and even go so far as to train the reps of Big Pharma that see the doctors around the country and promote all kinds of drugs and even promote larger doses and “off label” uses.

Yes, the quality of the information we find online depends on what we are searching for, as presented by a study published in January by Decision Support Systems. You can find high-quality information on the diagnosis and treatment of physical diseases or injuries online. However, search results related to nutrition, fitness, and preventive health varies tremendously in quality. What we do with the information we find can be hazardous to our health.

The Pew Research Internet Project gives much to think about and I will list some of the statistics used:

  1. More than 60 percent of American adults look for health information online.
  2. Of these people, 60 percent report that their most recent search influenced their health-related decisions.
  3. 77 percent of people seeking health information start with a general search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, as opposed to going the a health-specific website.
  4. Searchers are most likely to view only the results listed on the first page.
  5. 13% say they began at a site that specializes in health information, like WebMD.
  6. The most commonly researched topics are specific diseases or conditions; treatments or procedures; and doctors or other health professionals.
  7. Half of online health information research is on behalf of someone else – information access by proxy.
  8. 26% of online health seekers say they have been asked to pay for access to something they wanted to see online (just 2% say they did so).

Given the direction that mobile and online health information appears to be heading – in the more, not less, direction – people need guidance from unbiased sources. Rather than recommending patients avoid Internet searches for health information, [health care] providers may consider helping patients develop good strategies for recognizing high-quality information over questionable information."

While the last paragraph above is directed at health care professionals, doctors are not inclined to help patients unfortunately. They are more inclined to consider themselves as the only source their patients need. Therefore, they are falling further behind in creating an atmosphere conducive to good doctor-patient relationships.

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