UNITED STATES—With the internet at our hands and almost limitless information readily available with a few presses and swipes, the sheer amount of results per search can be a bit daunting. Even with a large quantity of information available, it should not come as a surprise to know that a lot of this information can be outdated, biased, or even just completely false. While in some cases this may be completely harmless, there are also times when this can be detrimental or even dangerous.

Especially while we are still living in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic, many people are seeking out answers which may not even be readily available yet. While website design for doctors may not come quite as naturally as treating patients, it is important that the information they share online, for patients, gaining access to updated, objective, and factual medical information is of extreme importance. While it is common for patients to seek out home remedies and quick facts about whatever symptoms they may have, this may possibly cause more harm than good.

Here are a few cons about unverified medical websites:

  • Misdiagnosing yourself or others
  • Causing yourself unnecessary anxiety over unverified diagnosis
  • Possibly playing down harmful symptoms
  • Trying unrecommended home remedies
  • Opting not to seek out professional help

Keep in mind that it isn’t all bad. Knowing what you now know about the cons of seeking information about unverified medical websites, you can steer yourself towards more credible sources. Take note of these when you’re assessing a website’s credibility:

  • Who is running the website? Is it an academic institution like a school or university? Is it run by a government or hospital group?
  • Who has written the article or journal you are reading? Are their credentials available? Are they a medical professional?
  • Is there an option for you to contact the organization which published the article or information?
  • Medical information changes quite quickly, is your information up to date? When was this written?

If you’re feeling confident about the source you’ve come across, you may benefit from the pros of seeking medical information online.

  • You can save: An example given by Suzanne Lucas of The Benefits Guide explains how a quick Google search can show you that a temperature of 101 may not warrant a clinic visit. This allows you to save not only time, but money as well.
  • Connect and support: Patients who have been diagnosed with chronic conditions may be able to connect with those who are dealing with the same thing. According to the Mayo Clinic, support groups are a great way to manage stress and gain emotional support. 
  • Track progress: An example of this would be how expecting mothers can take note of important milestones and be reassured throughout their pregnancy by accessing verified information about what to expect.

Seeing these pros may have you itching to go looking for a nice credible website. Here are some of the top 5 resources for gathering medical information:

Medscape

Medscape boasts of the latest medical news, clinical trials, and guidelines. Along with this, the website also states that it is “your one-stop resource for medical news, clinical reference, and education.” Medscape isn’t just for curious patients finding out whether their runny nose means they have cancer — Medscape is also the leading online global destination for physicians and healthcare professionals alike.

Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is the home of some of the best medical experts in the world. It consistently is ranked among one of the top hospitals in the U.S. Over a million people reach out to Mayo Clinic for their care as they are experienced in “treating rare and complex conditions.” There is a special group catered to managing the website as their editorial staff. All members of the staff are professional medical editors.

WebMD

WebMD’s slogan is “Better information. Better health.” That in itself should be telling of their commitment to providing trustworthy and timely health and medical news and information. WebMD prides itself on being able to provide users the tools to manage their health, and support those who are looking for information. Their guarantee is that their content is timely and credible.

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health or the NIH for short, is the center of medical research in the USA. It is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is known to be the largest source of funding for medical research in the world. The information house on the website is accessible absolutely free of charge.

Drugs.com

Drugs.com’s mission statement says that their aim is to empower patients by providing them the knowledge about their own healthcare and medication. With that said, the website is home to the largest medicine information website on the internet. Their aim is to provide up to date, objective, comprehensive drug and health related information.