How do I know if a website is trustworthy? The advent of technology has provided opportunities for individuals to share and learn massive amounts of information in a matter of seconds, but how can we ensure that this information is reliable, mainly when it involves our own health?
We have all seen offers and advertisements touting “miracle cure” or exclaiming, “Do these three things, and you’ll live forever!” But how often are these claims accurate? If we can navigate this information correctly, we can improve our research efficiency.
How Do I Know if a Website is Trustworthy?
Searching for a word or phrase may yield hundreds or millions of results. It is essential to identify which of these results comes from a trusted website.
- Website sponsorship
- Websites sponsored by the federal government or well-known organizations like schools or professional organizations are generally trustworthy. The “About us” section and a reverse search of the contact address may help you find the site’s funding sources and the purpose of the site. Government-funded or sites funded by reputable organizations indicate the reliability of a website.
- Website authors and reviewers.
- It is equally important to identify who the information is written by and who reviewed it. It is helpful to seek out professionals in the health care field; this may include doctors, nurses, research scientists, social workers, and public health administrators. If you have trouble finding the website’s authors, the “About us” page may provide further information about website affiliations and leadership.
- Website purpose
- The About Us or Mission section of the website may point you to the website’s purpose. The website’s goal should not just be to sell a product but rather to provide healthcare information that is beneficial to those who visit the website.
- Information relevancy and date published
- The healthcare world moves quickly and is constantly changing the way we understand the human body, so another vital aspect to look for is the information’s relevancy and the date it was published. Check the website for the dates the information was written, reviewed, and updated. Dated health information may be inaccurate or incongruent with today’s practices.
Red Flags of Information Accuracy
- The funding source of the website is a private business with the intention of selling products or information for commercial gain.
- Products may be ineffective, inaccurate, or harmful to your health.
- The website requires information from you, including inappropriate or personal information like your age, weight, social security number, or bank information. Be cautious in sharing such information, it can hurt yourself and others if the wrong person collects it.
- If the website requires you to input bank information, this is a red flag. Accurate and unbiased information should be free of charge.
- The website features lack
- Authors cited
- Reviewers cited
- Date of research and publishing
Be Cautious, Take Extra Steps
While these steps may seem tedious, your health is critical. It’s always best to ask yourself, “How do I know if a website is trustworthy,” instead of having to ask, “How do I fix this?”
Discussing your findings with your own healthcare provider is recommended to ensure safety. The month of February, or “Wise Healthcare Consumer Month,” serves as a reminder to take precautions when consuming information that can affect our health.
Written by Kate Atkinson, VOYCE Intern