It can sometimes be difficult to tell a trustworthy website from an unreliable one. Here are four key signs you can look out for.
1. Who is it coming from?
Experts have helped produce it
Start by asking yourself if the information has come from a credible source. Check for signs of expert involvement – for example, a named doctor has written or reviewed the information. This shows that the information been checked by a relevant medical professional before being published.
The website has a quality mark
Look for an accreditation or mark of quality, such as the Patient Information Forum tick. This is only awarded to organisations who follow high quality standards when producing health information.
2. Where have the facts come from?
High quality sources are easy to see
Many reputable websites will give details of the original sources that their facts come from, so you can see that the claims are based on good evidence. You can often find a list of sources at the bottom of the page or they are available on request. The sources should always be based on dependable research, such as large scientific studies or clinical guidelines, rather than personal blogs or newspaper articles.
The claims are backed up
Trustworthy organisations will be open about how they produce their information. For example, there may be an ‘About us’ section on the website that explains how the information is produced. Many will also include a list of other helpful websites where you can find more high-quality information.
3. When was it produced?
There’s a published date
Check when the information was published or updated. Check if there is a published or ‘last reviewed’ date on the page. Often, it’s a the top or bottom of the page.
The information is three years old or less
Ideally, the information should have been produced or updated within the last three years. Medical science and research are always moving forward, and the advice can change quickly. The best websites will make sure to regularly update their pages.
4. What do I understand now?
It’s clear and easy to understand
Finally, the information should be clear, free from complex language, medical jargon, and spelling mistakes. It shouldn’t feel like you’re reading an academic journal article!
Untangling the science!
The best providers of health information will do their best to untangle the science and make it as easy as possible for you to understand.
So next time you’re searching for health information online, protect yourself and others from harmful misinformation by asking: Who, where, when and what?
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