CSC welcomes Robyn Stoller, founder of CancerHawk and tireless patient advocate as a guest blogger. We’re thrilled to be working with her and look forward to additional informative and insightful posts in the coming months.
After Alan was diagnosed with cancer, the very first thing we did (after we caught our breadth) was to start searching the internet for more information. But how do you know if the information you are reading is accurate? Just because something is written on the internet doesn’t mean that its true.
It’s imperative that patients and their advocates know how to locate credible, reliable, objective information. It’s also equally important to be able to recognize when it’s time to discard or ignore information that is phony or inaccurate. After all, such information could lead to dangerous consequences if followed. But how do you know the difference? About.com suggests these guidelines when using the internet to research health & medical information.
• Remember that anyone can publish anything they want on the Internet, true or false. It’s up to you to determine which information is true and credible.
• Trust your intuition. Like the old adage, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Stay as objective as you can.
• Stick with well-respected health websites for the most credible and objective information.
• Always find at least a second reference to confirm your findings. Find a third reference, too, if you have time. There are few exceptions to this rule (pointed out in the resources listed.) But in general, if you can’t find the information duplicated in more than two or three references, then it’s questionable at best.
• Learn to separate fact from opinion. Sometimes this is difficult because the evidence that exists may be minimal. For example, a doctor may suggest a treatment for you based on his opinion and experience, while studies and evidence may show another treatment works more often. This is not to suggest that opinion isn’t just as valuable as fact. Its value will be determined by who is providing the advice. It’s important that you know the difference between fact and opinion when you’re studying treatment alternatives.
• Analyze any advertising to help assess the site’s credibility. Advertising by itself isn’t bad, unless it skews the information on the site. For example, on About.com you will find that all advertising is very clearly marked as such. Further, we guides never have any idea what advertising will be put on the site, and therefore, none of our writing for you can be colored by the advertising found on the site. But that is not true for many health websites. Their sole purpose is to help promote whatever it is they make or sell. Their “suggestions” and advice will steer you toward their products, or, the products they make, their single brand, will be the only one promoted on the site.
How do YOU determine if the information you’re finding is legit? Please share your strategies… Knowledge is power… Share the power!