#010 RELIABLE SOURCES OF MEDICAL INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET

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Last updated on May 5, 2021

Many of us use the internet all day long. I'm sure that many of us have tried to find all kinds of information through Wikipedia and other websites.  Online search engines and online encyclopedias like Wikipedia contain a great deal of information. That's great. Who doesn't want to have a lot of information at their fingertips? The problem is that these places might not be medically accurate.  

In this episode I will share with you three different places where I like to look for information.  Number one is the research papers themselves. Number two is websites that end in .edu or in .gov. Number three is websites that end in .org. I'll explain why so stay tuned. There's a lot of information to share about each one.

#1  RESEARCH PAPERS OR ARTICLES

Anyway, the first place to look is in the research papers themselves. Research papers often describe actual studies that were done on individuals who had a specific medical condition, a particular diagnosis, a specific treatment plan, or a certain set of symptoms. I like looking at the studies because a lot of the other information that you get from other places comes from these studies. In order to make statements in other forms of more credible media, the authors often go back to what the literature and the research studied showed. For instance, what happened to a group of individuals with a certain set of symptoms who were followed over time?

However, research articles are not without their faults. One of the problems with research articles is that they might only touch upon a specific topic in a particular field. They might not go over everything that there is to know about the subject. To get a broader idea of the subject material as a whole, you want to look at multiple articles. You may want to look at similar articles within the same field because sometimes one study done in a similar way can have very different results from another one. There are populations differences. There are differences among people. Just because one research article says something that doesn't mean that all research articles will say the same thing. You kind of want to look at it collectively.

Another one of the problems with research articles is that they tend to use medical speak and not everybody understands the medical speak. I like to use the analogy of going to get my car repaired at the mechanic. The mechanic tells me about what's going on with my car but uses terms that I don't quite understand. Some terms used by car mechanics that seem confusing to me include words like buffing it right out, dab of oppo, gas can, banger, and turbo lag. For car mechanics, these terms probably make a lot of sense but for someone like me, they don't make any sense at all. Well, it's similar with medical jargon. When you look at these research papers, they often use words that might not be commonly used in everyday language. That's why a lot of people turn to other places to look for their medical information because these other places use words that are more understandable.  This bring me to the second source of information.

#2 WEBSITES THAT END IN   .EDU   OR    .GOV

The second place where you could look for data are websites that end in .EDU and in .GOV. Most of us do look online for our medical information so we want to go to places that are more likely to be accurate.

When you look at a website that ends with .EDU, you're usually looking at some kind of place of education. Places that start with EDU could be places like hospitals that teach medical personnel. For instance, the big-name hospital called the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia can be found online as CHOP.EDU. Yep, it's right there. The .edu at the end of it. Other places that use that .EDU at the very end include universities and colleges that are into research and want to disseminate some of their research studies to the general public. Similar thing with the websites that end in .GOV. It's generally assumed that the main goal for these .GOV websites is government collection and then publication of the information to the public.

I do believe that if it the information is coming from an .EDU or .GOV website, it's more likely that the information has been read by multiple people or has been written by multiple people who are knowledgeable in the field and are using their expertise to share information with others.


Thus, so far, we've talked about two places to look for information about a particular medical condition. The first place is the research papers themselves. The second place is websites that end in .EDU and .GOV. Do you have a sense of what the third place might be?

#3 WEBSITES THAT END IN .ORG

The third place is actually websites the end with .ORG? In the past, .ORG was used predominantly by nonprofit organizations whose hope was to advocate and spread awareness. More recently, though, .ORG has been used by other institutions, but many websites that end in .ORG are still foundations and charities. For instance, since we spoke about the food allergy called FPIES in my last post, both the FPIES Foundation and the International FPIES Association have websites that end in .ORG. Again, every website has to be evaluated on its own merits so I am speaking in generalities.

Three "legal" things:  First, either a male or a female could consider themselves to be a mother.  My job is to serve and not to judge.  Second, although I am a family physician, I am not your doctor or therapist.   Please see your and your child's doctor.  Third, the information presented here is for educational purposes only.  It does not constitute professional medical advice. 

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