Millions of consumers get health information from magazines, TV or the internet. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not easy to separate the good from the bad, the accurate from the biased, or the research from the ads. You want to make sure you are finding the most current, unbiased information that is based on research.
Unfortunately, while the Internet and Social Media have made it easier and faster to find health information, it also allows fast and widespread distribution of false and misleading information. That’s according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is charged with enforcing consumer protection laws.
Before searching for medical information on the internet, we recommend that you educate yourself about how to evaluate the information you find. Here are several resources that can help:
- Evaluating Health Information on the Internet – A brief Q&A fact sheet developed by The National Institute of Health
- Evaluating Internet Health Information – A tutorial from the National Library of Medicine
- Health on the Web: Finding Reliable Information – A guide, also available in Spanish, from the American Academy of Family Physicians
- MedlinePlus Guide to Healthy Web Surfing – A guide from the National Library of Medicine
Finally, never forget that it is vital – after carefully considering the source of the information – to discuss it, along with your medical history and any symptoms, with your health care provider.
Here are links to a few of the websites from national non-profit organizations and the government that you may find useful. Remember that clicking on any of these links will take you to the website for a different organization, not related to this hospital (A note about third party websites>>).
- HealthFinder.gov – A site from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services with interactive tools, including risk assessments and health trackers
- American Heart Association – www.Heart.org
- American Cancer Society – www.Cancer.org
- American Diabetes Association – www.Diabetes.org
- Centers for Disease Control – www.CDC.gov
- Childhood Obesity – www.LetsMove.gov
- Emergencies – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/emergencymedicalservices.html
- Men’s Health – www.MensHealthNetwork.org
- Mental and Behavioral Health – www.nmha.org
- National Kidney Foundation – www.Kidney.org
- National Stroke Association – www.Stroke.org
- Senior Health – www.NIHSeniorHealth.gov
- Sleep Disorders – www.SleepFoundation.org
- Women’s Health – www.WomensHealth.gov
Judging Hospital Quality
The plethora of hospital grades, ratings, and rankings made available to “help” patients choose the best health care often have such different conclusions that they generate more confusion than clarity for patients, the public and providers.
The numerous rating systems—which include Healthgrades, The Leapfrog Group, and U.S. News & World Report—use different data to rate facilities and often change their rating systems from year to year. Most hospital assessments synthesize dozens of pieces of data that Medicare publishes on its Hospital Compare website, including death rates and the results of patient satisfaction surveys. They also examine other sources and use private surveys to create user-friendly lists or grades, which they display on their websites.
However, there are so many different rating systems that the Informed Patient Institute (IPI) maintains its own rating system to grade the raters. Executive Director Carol Cronin says most report cards are not easy for consumers to use. “A lot of them don’t help users quickly understand which hospital is better than another,” she said. Learn more here>>