Is it a good-quality website?
5 questions to ask
A lot of health information is available on internet — but not all of it is reliable.
Here are five questions to consider, to help you decide if the medical or health information you find on the internet is what you need — accurate, unbiased and up to date.
Is it clear who is providing the information? Also, who funds the website? If it is not clear, beware. If the website is run by a government authority, an independent body, a professional organisation or support body, the information is more likely to be reliable and of good quality.
Check to see if the website and the organisation linked with it is Australian. If not, some of the information provided might not be relevant to you.
Websites exist for a purpose — for example, to provide information, to sell a product or to tell the world about the theories of their contributors. Knowing the purpose of a website helps you judge the information it provides. Sites that provide information, without selling a product, will probably give you more balanced advice.
The best information is based on evidence, not belief. The best information also acknowledges that all treatments have both positives and negatives, and that the outcome of treatments cannot be guaranteed. Warning signs to watch out for include:
- promises that the medicine will be effective for everyone
- promises of instant cures
- promises of miracle recoveries
- words like ‘breakthrough’, ‘secret ingredient’, ‘scientific research’ (without saying what that research showed) or ‘side-effect free’
- requests for payment.
Look for dates on web pages. This is more important for some information than for others. General information about an illness and its causes may not change much in 2 or 3 years, but information about its treatment may well change within that time. Links are another clue: a lot of broken links suggest a website is out of date.
Most websites link to other sites. Have a look at some of these links. If a website you’re interested in links to sites you assess to be good quality, then it reflects well. If its links are to websites that don’t meet your quality standards, then this reflects badly.
- Health on the Net Foundation
- HealthInsite: How to assess health information online
- MedlinePlus guide to healthy web surfing
- Evaluating internet health information: a tutorial from the National Library of Medicine