How to Find Trustworthy Medical Information on the Internet
Looking for medical information on the Internet can be tricky, given the low rate of accuracy found on many websites. A new study suggests that people in search of medical information are safest trusting sites that end in .gov or .org.
A group of researchers set out to test the reliability of medical advice on the web by focusing on information related to sudden infant death syndrome and other sleep-related maladies among babies. The experts compared the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) with various websites found through a simple Google search.
Of the 1,300 non-AAP websites examined, only 43.5% contained recommendations that were in line with pediatrics professionals. Twenty-eight percent of the sites offered inaccurate information and another 28% were not medically relevant.
The web sites of government agencies—those with URLs ending in “.gov”—had the highest level of accuracy, 80.9%. National organization—with URLs ending in “.org”—also did well, at 72.5%.
The most inaccurate websites belonged to retail businesses, with an accuracy rate of only 8.5%. Blogs also did poorly at 25.7%. The biggest surprise of the study was that books and university sites (ending in “.edu”) only scored an accuracy rate of 50.2%, presumably because they are so often out-of-date.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Accuracy of Medical Information on the Internet (by Jalees Rehman, Scientific American)
Safe Infant Sleep Recommendations on the Internet: Let's Google It (by Matthew Chung, Rosalind P. Oden, Brandi L. Joyner, Alexandra Sims and Rachel Y. Moon, The Journal of Pediatrics) (pdf)
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