Doctors hate google. It used to be that our diagnoses were a medical mystery. Now, with information at our fingertips, we show up to our appointments with a list of potential diagnoses. It’s not just doctor that hate google. Grandma does too. Her coveted pie recipe that was handed down through generations of butt kissing can now be found with the click of a mouse. But while recipes come with reviews to give you some indication of their worthiness, medical information does not. So how do you know that wart is really just a wart and not a metastatic cancer?
As a former paramedic, and a current scientist, I have trouble weeding through the information dump that comes from a google search. I recently had a baby and when I was wondering whether my newborn’s rash was just a rash, I googled it. And guess what I discovered? It could be anything from baby acne to life threatening measles. And the blogosphere was replete with stories of newborns who died from a rash (gasp!). My newborn’s rash turned out just to be baby acne but I realized that it’s very easy to believe the worst when you hear heart wrenching stories on the internet. Are the stories real? I’d like to think so. But are they the exception or the norm to the malady you’re researching? Am I likely to post a story of my very common baby acne? I guess by writing this blog I am, but it’s not very interesting and won’t get a lot of clicks. Whereas if it had been serious, my cautionary tale would have mothers clutching their chests and quickly clicking “share” to educate others so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
So here are 3 ways to find accurate medical information:
If you type Google Scholar in Google or simply “Scholar: and your query” in the search bar, you are searching Google’s database of scholarly literature. This means published medical articles that are peer reviewed.
Pros: accurate and cutting edge information directly from the medical literature without having to learn how to use Pubmed which is what most scientists and physicians use.
Cons: The information is overwhelming, dense and written in medical jargon.
Best for: researching a complex medical issue or disease or seeking out the latest in medical care for a specific diagnoses (e.g. hypoplastic left heart syndrome.)
2) Doctor and Medical Association Websites
Your doctor may have a lot of information on his or her website on common things they treat. For example, pediatricians often have handouts on immunizations and how to treat a cold in a child. If your doctor doesn’t have a website or you don’t have a doctor, try the medical association. For example, if you are wondering what prenatal care involves, go to the website for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You know the information on these websites is vetted by a physician. Also, famous clinics like the Mayo Clinic have a searchable website with decent information. Your local hospital may also have a great website for information.
3) National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The NIH is at the cutting edge of health and medicine and their website is a wealth of information. There is a search bar and a front page with interesting information that you weren’t even looking for—like how to prevent body odor, and wellness toolkits.
What about WebMD? I’m not saying their information is not accurate, but they do receive a large amount of funding from pharmaceutical and device companies. The website has a lot of ads for drug products and if you’re searching for depression and are bombarded with ads for Prozac, you can’t help but let your mind think you need to visit a psychiatrist.
So what the most recent medical malady you’ve been wondering about? Comment here to let me know, and if you have a favorite website you go to for your information.
And don’t forget to check out the wonderful line up of September Heartwarmings from the very talented Cari Lynn Webb, Jo Leigh, Nadia Nichols and Karen Rock.