Mobile health - Using mobile devices to find health information

Research is showing that more people are using mobile devices to access health information on the go. It’s important to know where to go to find reputable sources.

As more people turn to the internet and mobile devices to manage their work, home and other daily tasks, research is showing that these same individuals are also using their cell phones to access health information. A recent study published by the Pew Research Center looked at the number of people that have cell phones and if they used their phone to look up health information. Of the 3,001 people surveyed, 85 percent owned cell phones and 17 percent of phone owners reported using their phone to find health information over the last year. That percentage increases to 29 percent when looking at people between the ages of 18-29. With regard to health information via the internet, the number is much higher with 83 percent of internet users looking online for health information.

One of the things we need to be aware of when accessing health information, whether on a mobile device or computer is whether or not the source and content are reputable. We need to be savvy when it comes to evaluating web sources of health information; whether it is for content, accuracy or if the content is current. Here are some things to look for when you are evaluating the website:

  • Where did the information come from? Look for the source of the information, whether it comes directly from the website owner or another source. Did the information come from a medical expert or was it reviewed by one? Generally, websites that end in .gov, .org, or .edu are reputable sources that have content on their sites based on research that is posted or reviewed by medical experts. Websites that end in “.com” can contain research-based information, but also tend to be for-profit entities which have their own agenda, to sell a product.
  • Who is responsible for the content of the website or app? Look on the home page or in the “About Us” section to see who is publishing the information on the website or app. Government entities, non-profit organizations and educational institutions tend to be the most reliable when it comes to accurate health information. Regardless, still look to find where the health information is coming from. If the website is published by an individual, it may still offer support and advice but be wary because the content may also contain myths or rumors not backed by scientific research.
  • How current is the information? New health research is coming out all the time and health recommendations are changing frequently. Most of the time there is a date at the bottom of a website telling you when the content was posted or updated. If it doesn’t, you can find a copyright on the bottom of the website. If you find content on a website that is more than a year old, consider doing more research to see if there is any other information that is more current.

No matter what information you find, it is important to talk to your health care provider about any questions or health conditions. He or she knows what is best for you based on your personal health history. Another place to find reputable health information is your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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