Finding reliable medical advice online

04/03/2020

Searching for information about your symptoms online can be terrifying, and in some cases, can convince you that you're terminally ill, when in fact all you have is a mild infection. The result for many people is that they don't look for health information online. However, if you are careful about the sites you use, online health information can be invaluable. 

With all the talk about Coronavirus (Covid-19) health information is in the forefront of our consciousness. In some countries, people don't want to go out for fear of catching it, and if you are worried you have it, (or anything else) you don't want to run the risk of spreading it. 

Equally, we rely increasingly on online information for everything, and many people wouldn't be parted from their connections and phones for anything.  

It makes sense to use the information that is online to help, but it is vitally important to choose good websites, with accurate information. To do this, ask yourself:

  • who wrote it? Is the site written by doctors, nurses and health experts? If the answer is no, move on. 
  • when was the information written? Look for the dates of the website - medical information is constantly being updated, so information from ten years ago may not be useful. 
  • What is the purpose of the website? Official health bodies provide information online as a service, and so have no ulterior motive. If the website is littered by adverts, links to other sites etc, it is more likely to exist to generate income.
  • Weigh up what you read - check it against other reputable sites, to make sure it is correct. Bear in mind that your GP has studied for years, and is skilled at separating symptoms and asking questions to work out exactly what is wrong, while you may find this challenging. If the result of your research is confusion, then see an expert!
  • Check the website name - if it includes .gov, it is usually a government source. Companies and individuals usually use .com or .co

A few sites you can try for medical information are:

NHS (National Health Service - UK) They also have an online 111 service where you answer questions and are then directed to the most appropriate form of health care, in response to your answers. 

NICE (National Institute for Health Care Excellence)

National Institutes of Health (USA)

Patient Info

Pushdoctor works with the NHS, and provides online consultations with your local GP surgery. However, this is not yet available in all areas. 

These sites are not infallible, but are likely to give you the most accurate and helpful information. As always though, if in doubt, consult an expert. Stay safe, stay healthy.