Reliable sources of health and medical information are available on the Internet. This information can be helpful when you consult your health care provider about your disease or condition, though it should not replace such consultation (see Point V). As you search for and evaluate information, however, keep these considerations in mind:
• It may be difficult to determine the source of the information you find on a web site and to verify that source. If you are not familiar with the source of information, you may be able to find out more about it from health care professionals or reliable organizations with which you are familiar. Your own reliable sources may be able to give you help to evaluate the reliability and quality of the web site information.
• The box below outlines the minimum information that a web site should contain.
LOOKING AT A WEB SITE? CHECK THE FOLLOWING:
• Is there clear indication of the name and contact address of the web site owner?
• Is it clear which organization(s) contribute funding, services, or other support to the web site?
• If advertising or sponsorship is a source of funding, is this clearly stated?
• Is this a site for consumers, health professionals, or some other audience?
• When was the information displayed last updated
There are many health and medical sites on the Internet which do provide good information that may not be easily available from other media. They may be designed for health professionals or for consumers. However, even information from reliable sources may require special training in order to evaluate it properly and to determine whether the information applies to your disease or condition. The information provided by these web sites covers such topics as:
• Research being conducted on a particular disease or a condition - including rare diseases - and related clinical trials;
• New product approvals by health authorities in your country for a specific disease or condition;
• General information about diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure, arthritis or obesity;
• Support groups for people with certain diseases and conditions, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer;
• Lists of international, national and local organizations that provide support and information for a disease or condition.
Health authorities and organizations in each country can provide a list of sites with links to reliable sources of health and medical information. Additionally, several private organizations are actively searching for ways to ensure the quality of information on the Internet. Internet users may be interested in following or participating in these discussions and reading what others have to say on this topic. The following box lists two examples of organizations that are conducting such activities. National authorities should identify and list additional organizations and reliable web sites known to them.
Health on the Net Foundation http://www.hon.ch
Internet Healthcare Coalition http://www.ihc.net