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How can a consumer evaluate healthcare information and sort fact from fallacy?

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1. How can a consumer evaluate healthcare information and sort fact from fallacy?

Even though health information can be extremely useful and empowering to consumers, it is imperative to evaluate before we use this information to make important health decisions. And, given the wealth of information available today through the Internet, journals and other sources, it's even more important to be able to assess its quality. This can be difficult because health information is constantly changing as a result of new research and because there may be different valid approaches to treating particular conditions. There are no specific rules to determine the validity of the information, there are some useful guides that can be used to assess its credibility and accuracy (http://www.ucsfhealth.org/adult/edu/EvaluatingHealthInfo.html).

Briefly, evaluation of health information for credibility and accuracy of health information include:

1. Evaluate the source.

a. Is the source credible? If it is a webpage, find out who is funding it - drug advertisers? Hospital administrators? These sources might be biased. Often government, education sources are reliable. The source should have the author and date of publication, as well as date of updates. Some websites are also peer reviewed (see more in the excerpt below). Peer-reviewed articles are also often credible, but the artilce still needs to be evaluated for study design, methodology and sample size (see more in the excerpt below) (http://www.ucsfhealth.org/adult/edu/EvaluatingHealthInfo.html).

b. Is the source accurate? Assessing accuracy involve trying to determine whether the information is supported by evidence from scientific studies, other data or expert opinion. If you receive information from a medical journal, note the size and category of the study. Is the information based on a large or small sample? Read the article carefully to see if the authors discuss any limitations or weaknesses of the study. (see further discussion in the excerpt below) (http://www.ucsfhealth.org/adult/edu/EvaluatingHealthInfo.html)

2. Research is important for consumers to become a "smart consumer." Compare two or three sources to check for credibility and accuracy of the information. (see excerpt below)

3. Ask questions. Most healthcare professionals welcome questions - they often like to have an interested patient.

4. Know the top providers. Some providers have been awarded for quality, check this out. Some providers are known to have more medical ...

Solution Summary

This solution fully explains the strategies that a consumer can use to evaluate healthcare information and sort fact from fallacy. References are provided.

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