Health information on the internet

Tips for finding reliable, credible and trustworthy health information.

Make sure the website is reliable, credible and trustworthy when searching for health information.

Make sure the website is reliable, credible and trustworthy when searching for health information.

Many people use the internet to find health related information for themselves, family or friends. Health related websites are one of the most widely-searched sites in the world. In fact, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 72 percent of internet users say they have looked online for health information within the last year. Although there is quality information on the internet, it is important to sift through the fact and fiction when searching for health information.

What to look for:

Credible source:

  • Ensure the website is managed by recognized and responsible authorities. Many reliable sources include a branch of the federal government, a non-profit institution, university or health system.
  • An “About Us” page should be included with proper contact information for the organization or institution.

Quality information:

  • The authors or editors are qualified health care professional and their credentials are clearly stated.
  • Information included should be reviewed by a subject appropriate advisory board.

Research based:

  • Rely on medical research, not opinion. The site should describe the evidence (such as articles in medical journals) that the material is based on.
  • Beware of bias. Is the site supported by public funds or commercial advertising?

Timeliness:

  • Is the site updated often with current information? Check for dates, “last updated,” or copy right dates to ensure all the information is relevant today.

What to avoid:

  • Discussion of “miracle cures” or advertisements for health related products within the article. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Sites asking you to pay for information or to create an account. Most reliable information is accessible to the general public for free.
  • Websites made up of only forums or discussion groups. These sites may be a good place to document your personal journey but many offer opinions, not scientific evidence.

It is OK to be skeptical when looking for trustworthy health information online. Keep your information private and never provide your social security number, address, date of birth or credit card information before reading the privacy policy. Although online sites can offer quality information, they are not made to replace your doctor. Consult with your health care provider before making any medical changes. Michigan State University Extension is a reliable source for information and resources on health and nutrition.

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