Tips to Find Accurate, Safe and
Up-to-date Medical Information Online

Your physician is the best person to obtain information about your diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. You should always feel comfortable asking your doctor questions. Feel free to make a list of questions on paper before your appointment so you can be prepared, not forget anything, and be as brief as possible.

We do not use this site to post information about specific diseases, treatments or prognosis. Without seeing you in person this would be beyond the abilities of the office. Medical advice can change frequently. Your physicians keep up-to-date by various means such as lectures, conferences, reading, personal experience, and discussions. In the case of Dr. Reid and all specialists certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, this continuing medical education is monitored by a Maintenance of Competence Program (MOCOMP) administered by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

However, we understand that your health is very important to you and you want to be well informed. The ability to get health information off the internet at any time of the day or night makes it an appealing source of information. But remember that just as easily as you can read things on the internet, others can post to the internet. Just because it is on the internet doesn't make it correct, or the best advice for you.

In this regard here are some tips and things to look for when looking at medical information online.

Reliable: Is the information from a reliable source? Sources such as government agencies (i.e.: Health Canada), hospitals (i.e.: Horizon Health, Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation, or the Saint John Regional Hospital), or nationally recognized non-profit organizations (i.e.: The Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society) tend to be more reliable than commercial sites for instance. Such sources typically report recent and reliable information based on science and fact.

Up-to-Date: Is the information current? A good source of information will date their information when it is posted, published, or reviewed. There are no hard and fast rules for how current information should be. For instance some medications have been viable treatments for certain conditions for decades. However, in some instances a new medication can be introduced, found to have concerns, and pulled from the market in a fraction of that time. For this reason newer information is always better.

Relevant: Does the information pertain to you? When reading information check to see that is applies to people of your age, gender, ethnicity, even nationality.

Referenced: Does the site provide sources? Providing references including the source of peer reviewed scientific studies provides trust. Look for names of peer reviewed medical journals in articles that reference scientific studies to confirm accuracy.

Trusted: Is the site trustworthy? Large reputable non-commercial health and medical institutions (i.e.: accredited medical universities and nationally recognized non-profit organizations) will tend to provide more reliable health and medical information.

Safe: Does the site offer options for treatment? Sites that claim that all you have to do is take (their) one pill to cure your condition are biased. They may not be providing you the facts or whole truth. Such treatments can even be costly, ineffective, and even dangerous! As much as we would all like it, there is no magic pill.

Scientific: Does the site offer peer reviewed medical information, or are they trying to sell you something? Be very wary of information selling so-called natural products. From overseas or in Canada, these companies can include false scientific claims. Their goal is their sales, not your health. Obtaining basic, accurate, and reliable information does not take a credit card. We would encourage you not to buy any medications online.

Inclusive: Does the site encourage you to share the information with your physician? Reliable sites should always stress the importance of speaking to your physician before stopping a medication or starting an treatment, exercise, drug, or therapy.

Human Contact: Does the site you are looking at have an e-mail address for questions or feedback? Does it work? Do they reply? Reliable sites should always provide contact information, including a physical address and phone number.

Private: Is there a privacy policy? Since the advent of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, all organizations in Canada should have a privacy policy. Similar laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the United States make such policies a given no matter where you go. If an internet site requires you to sign up, provide personal information such as your name or e-mail address, you should insist on a privacy policy being in place. Also confirm that your personal information is not sold to other companies.

Health Information on the Internet

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published the following patient handout on obtaining health and medical information online. This document requires a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader.

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