Finding and Evaluating
Health Information on the Net
A Guide for Mini-Med School Participants
for health information on the internet can be frustrating. How
do we locate relevant health information? By what criteria do we
judge the retrieved information to determine its usefulness to
you, your friends, or your family?
some quick guidelines:
possible, begin with a reliable source. When looking for a
specialist, you wouldn’t just open the yellow pages and pick the
first name listed, would you? The best bet is to get a referral
from a trusted professional. The same principle applies to
health information: Start with a website recommended by a health
professional or a librarian.
Evaluating Health Information Online
yourself a few basic questions about the web page and
authored this information and how credible are they?
author/sponsor should be clearly identified on the page with its
affiliation and contact address.
top domain level is a good indicator of the nature and purpose
of the site: sites ending in “.gov” or “.edu” are in general
more reliable since they are sponsored by governments and
educational institutions. The domain name “.org” is more
flexible in its usage.
commercial websites (usually ending with “.com”) with caution.
Although reliable information may be found within, read the
disclaimers and disclosures and be aware of the sites’
How current is the
site should clearly identify the date of the most recent update
to the information. For information on research and treatments,
be sure to look for very current dates, as clinical research is
the information retrieved factual or is it someone’s opinion?
factual information whenever available. Look for references to
primary literature (journal articles or medical texts).
one or two more sources on the topic to verify that the
information is accurate. Be skeptical of information which
contradicts an authoritative source.
is the target audience?
should clearly identify the consumer section versus the health
professional’s section. The information has to be presented in
clear, comprehensible language and be easy to navigate through.
that many websites are written for an American audience. Look
for a Canadian source when possible.
other agencies which also publish guidelines for evaluating
find the most trustworthy health information websites
Health Network (en français aussi)
code (en français aussi)
the Net Foundation
to healthy web surfing
insight: Taking charge of health information (US)
Harvard School of Public Health
Suggestions for using the
Internet to find new cancer treatments
Dr. G. Batist,
Director, McGill Centre for Translational Research in Cancer
Your personal health care provider is your best source of
information concerning your health.
November 12 2007
© McGill Mini-Med School, 2005-2007
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Faculty of Medicine, McGill University,
July 15, 2010