It is not unusual for a patient today to walk into a surgery with prior information they have discovered on the internet. To some, this can seem a hindrance, for others this willingness of patients to digest health information is considered a collaborative opportunity. It is impossible to stop a patient from searching for health information, and nor should we want to in this era of self care and personal responsbility. So here are some tips to pass on to patients to help ensure the information they find is useful and make the situation work for both you and the patient.
Some of the most credible websites in the UK are certified by the Information Standard. In the UK, there are tens of thousands of websites posting health related information, and The Information Standard is a certification process for health and social care information established by the Department of Health that determines the reliability of the health information on a website. A simple scroll down to the bottom (usually) of the main page of a health website will reveal whether it is certified by the Information Standard.
Websites ending in .org or .gov are usually reliable as they are typically not-for-profit organisations and government-run organisations, respectively. Websites ending in .ac in the UK (or .edu in the US) are run by academic institutions such as universities and will certainly hold credible information. However, it might be tailored to experts in the field, rather than patients.
Reminding patients that there is plenty of credible health information on the internet, but also plenty of inaccurate information, is useful. It highlights the importance of searching for health information on credible health websites such as www.nhs.uk, www.webmd.com, www.mayoclinic.com or www.patient.co.uk
Rather than try to discourage a patient from searching for health information online (chances are, they will still do it), encouraging a focus on credible sources will help them unearth accurate information, making for a more efficient and successful consultation.