In a day and age focused on the idea of fake news, it is important to be able to differentiate between legitimate information and complete nonsense. Making the distinction might sound like a pretty straightforward concept but the stakes are high when it comes to information regarding your ADHD and other treatments. The Internet is filled with information, both true and false, and it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts when searching the web.
Where to Look
Johns Hopkins Medical Center has a few key tips for anyone trying to find reliable health related information online. The first pointer is to go to websites that are known to be credible. A good starting place for looking up reliable health related information about ADHD is Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library and MedlinePlus. These websites have been written and reviewed by medical personnel, and provide accurate, up-to-date information.
When venturing off of these trusted websites and trying to decide if information on a web page is credible, there are a few things to watch out for. First, make sure the information you are reading is current. Try to find the date when the information was posted. Medical information changes rapidly and something that was advised for patients with ADHD a few years ago could nowadays be recommended against. A good rule of thumb is that information posted more than three years ago is outdated.
Another important thing to note when looking on websites is the author and where the information is coming from. Information posted online can be written by anyone. Always check to make sure articles are written by a doctor, nurse, psychologist, or that the article is citing scientific studies conducted by researchers. Be skeptical of any information found online not written by a medical professional or information not backed by research.
Where Not to Look
A study published in the Journal of Medical Research states that third-party analytics found Wikipedia to be the most viewed medical resource in the world. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia containing information on a variety of topics including ADHD. Wikipedia has more than 155,555 medical related articles and this medical content was viewed more than 6.5 billion times in 2013. The catch is that the information found on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with internet access.
A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association investigated how accurate the medical information was on Wikipedia. In the study, researchers investigated the accuracy of information on the 10 most costly medical conditions. Researchers compared the medical information found on Wikipedia to the information published in evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources. They found that for 9 of the 10 conditions there were significant differences between the two types of sources. Although some studies have found Wikipedia to be reliable, this study concluded that for medical information, –particularly information on the top 10 most costly medical conditions – is inaccurate and people using Wikipedia are being misinformed.
Advice From an Expert
Adam Sage, PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted research about where parents are looking for information about their child’s ADHD. Sage appreciates that the Internet makes information available to more people, but also warns parents to be aware that there is false information out there.
Sage’s advice to parents searching the Internet for information is to be aware that each child with ADHD is unique. He says, “Any parent will tell you that no two children are the same, so the experience of another parent isn’t necessarily the same as the one you will have.”
Another concern is that we distrust medical professionals based on what we have read online. A major part of Sage’s study was figuring out what questions parents had, and whether or not they were actually asking them during doctor’s visits. He cautions parents not to assume they know information about ADHD because they found articles online. “Occasionally, people assume the information they found is correct and that affects the types of questions they do and don’t ask their physician. Not asking questions prevents the doctor’s ability to correct any misinformation and that’s not always the best way to go into a conversation with your doctor.” He advises parents to get information about their child’s ADHD and to confirm what they’ve found online with a physician or qualified health professional.
What do you think about how medical information is shared on the internet? Do you have any reliable websites you love to get information? Let us know in the comments!