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Consumer Health Information on the Internet: Proceed with Caution

Proceed with Caution!

“The Internet is a wild frontier whose landscape changes frequently. It contains all sorts of health information—good and bad, true and false, complete and dangerously incomplete. Before you act on anything you learn online, we recommend that you make sure you check with your doctor.”

  --Consumer Reports

• Anyone with a computer can set up a website! It is easier to publish information on the Internet than to publish books, magazines and other traditional forms of communication.

• Some sites on the Internet were created in order to promote a product or the opinion of the site’s creator; therefore, the information they present may be biased. It is important to weigh Internet information in the context of the site creator’s motive.

• In a similar manner to checking the credentials of a healthcare provider, it is necessary to check the credentials of an Internet information provider. It is important to know if the information is provided by a health professional or by a lay person.


Tips for Evaluating a Website

If you obtain health information from sites other than the ones listed above, or from listservs or blogs, please be sure to evaluate the information according to the following guidelines:

Check the site’s URL (address). The last segment of the URL before the / gives a general indication of the organization sponsoring the site, for example:

     .edu – site provided by a university or a learning institution

     .gov – site provided by a government agency

     .com – site provided by a commercial company

     .org – site provided by a non-profit organization

Read the “About us” or “Who are we?” section of the site. A reputable site should include this section. This is where a user can learn about the credentials and intentions of the site’s creator.

• Check the date the information was last revised. Look for sites that offer fresh content that is updated regularly.

• Stick by government or university run sites. Other credible sources include medical associations and hospitals.

• Remember: the information on email groups (listservs), blogs, and chats is anecdotal, and not scientifically proven. Check this information with your doctor.


Share Information with your Doctor

Share information you found on the Internet with your doctor

Heart conditions and disorders are complex diseases with many factors and variables that affect diagnosis, prognosis and treatment decisions. Every patient is a unique case with a different set of circumstances. Even if the information you find on the Internet is accurate and current, it may not be applicable to your specific situation. To understand how the information you find relates to your case, you must consult with your doctor.

The following are suggestions to promote efficient and effective communication between you and your doctor:

1. Be organized.

Keep your printouts well-organized in a folder or in a set of labeled folders that will allow you to find each piece quickly.

2. Prepare a list.

Review the information before the appointment and prepare a set of questions with the most important and relevant ones first. Next to the questions record the information sources on which they are based. These references will help you to pull out a specific piece if the doctor asks for it. Be realistic in planning a reasonable number of questions within the time constraints of your appointment.

3. Keep a record of what was said.

It is difficult to maintain a conversation and take good notes at the same time. Bring a friend or a family member who can take the notes. You may also ask for permission to record the conversation. This will help you to recall what was said in the meeting after it is over.

When searching for information on diseases of the heart, it is important to establish a good foundation of knowledge about the condition before focusing the search on treatment options. A good understanding of the illness and its specific aspects will help the information seeker retrieve more relevant information and ask better questions.



Subject Guide

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Amy Hyde
Mardigian Wellness Resource Center
Michigan Medicine
Frankel Cardiovascular Center
Level 2 off the Atrium
Room 2101


This Information Guide may contain information and/or instructional materials developed by Michigan Medicine for the typical patient with your condition. It may include links to online content that was not created by Michigan Medicine and for which Michigan Medicine does not assume responsibility. It does not replace medical advice from your health care provider because your experience may differ from that of the typical patient. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about this document, your condition or your treatment plan.