No doubt, we all conduct searches on the Internet to learn more about our health conditions. While we’re warned not to believe everything we read on the Internet, online information tends to enjoy an air of authority.
If the website looks good or is popular, it must be truthful, right? Not necessarily.
Be a savvy surfer
Keep these tips in mind when you research your health:
- Medical information presented should be blind peer-reviewed (reviewers don’t know whose work they are reading and critiquing, so they are not biased). You can usually find this in the About Us section.
- If the website is funded by a single company that is selling something, beware of possible (probable) hidden agendas and bias. Sponsored ads on the page are fine. I’m talking about a whole website funded by one company.
- Medical websites are not required to take the Hippocratic Oath (do no harm) like doctors are, and the sites are not held accountable for any harm they may cause.
- Anyone can put anything on the internet.
Case in point, is the Wikipedia study, below.
A new study shows exactly how misleading a very popular website, Wikipedia, is when it comes to some of the most costly medical conditions in America. Medical students conducted the study1 and published their findings in the Journal of American Osteopathy.
The students combed through Wikipedia articles about the top 10 most costly medical conditions in America: lung cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, coronary artery disease, COPD, hyperlipidemia, concussion, hypertension, major depressive disorder, and back pain. They compared the information in the Wikipedia articles to information in evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources.
They found that all the entries had a statistically significant discordance (incorrect or out-of-date information), for all pages but the concussion page. This is alarming not just for the average online reader: the researchers pointed out that 47% to 70% of medical students and doctors admit to using Wikipedia as a reference.
To research your back pain, start with our peer-reviewed back pain articles, Back Pain Overview: A Guide for Understanding Back Pain
Find trusted sources
Wikipedia allows anyone to add or delete information in their articles, so it’s not shocking that there are many errors. Need a trusted health source for back or arthritis pain?
Veritas Health publishes unbiased, blinded peer-reviewed health information on our sites Spine-health.com and Arthritis-health.com. Our goal is to give patients truthful information they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
- Wikipedia: Proceed With Caution J Am Osteopath Assoc May 1, 2014 114:334-335