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Online consult not dangerous to health

Going online for health advice sometimes helps, and any harm it causes is likely to be minimal. This was the conclusion reached by two groups in separate studies on the reliability of online medical advice. A study published online in Archives of Childhood Disease last April assessed the accuracy of medical advice on children’s health provided by a range of U.K.-based Web sites. Researchers say the quality of advice varied widely depending on the question asked and who runs the site. Government-run sites were completely reliable, the Nottingham-based researchers said. Overall, 39 percent of the 500 sites searched gave correct information, 11 percent gave incorrect information, and 49 percent did not answer the question or gave answers unrelated to the question. Questions on MMR and autism, and HIV and breast-feeding were answered "very poorly."

In the U.S., a separate survey found little harm in searching online for answers to medical problems. Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation collected data on harm caused by following medical advice or health information found on the Internet. Only 2 percent of adults living with chronic disease and 3 percent of adults with no chronic disease reported harm to themselves or someone they knew as a result of online health information. About a third to a half of those studied said online health information was helpful.




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