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Health Connection Fast Facts: How to Find Accurate Health Information Online

The amount of health information on the Internet can be overwhelming, and not everything you read is trustworthy. Here are some helpful tips for finding accurate, up-to-date healthcare information online.

Be a Savvy Searcher

Doing a search for health information can yield too few, too many, or irrelevant results. Use these tips to find what you’re looking for.

Clarify What You Want with AND, OR, and NOT
The examples below explain how to use these words to make your search more precise and save you time.

"AND" narrows a search: Finds items that use both keywords.

  • Search example: "Arthritis and nutrition" will serve up results that include both terms.

"OR" broadens a search: Finds items that use either of the keywords.

  • Search example: "Arthritis or nutrition" will serve up results for either term.

"NOT" narrows a search: Excludes the second keyword from results.

  • Search example: "Arthritis not nutrition" will serve up results for just one term; in this case it would be "arthritis" only.

Punctuation Can Help
Place quotation marks (“ ”) around a phrase to find webpages containing that exact phrase.

Watch Out for Ads
The first result you see might not be the best one for you. Many search engines are funded by advertisements. Organizations can pay for their results to appear at the top of the results page.

Become a Healthy Skeptic

For each result, ask the following 5 questions:

  • Who created and manages the content—a healthcare organization, university, government, or library, or a for-profit commercial organization? You can find this information in the website’s “about us” section or the web address. Government websites end in .gov and universities in .edu.
  • What information is being presented—facts or opinions? Aim for websites with facts.
  • When was the content created or last updated? Look for the post or revision dates. Avoid websites that have not been updated for years.
  • Where is the information from? Is it based on one study? Did the author include references? Is the editorial process described? Look for trustworthy information based on medical research.
  • Why does this website exist? Was it created to sell a product? Who funds it?

Check out these trusted websites:

medlineplus.gov
hss.edu/coronavirus-info
hss.edu/conditions
cdc.gov
health.ny.gov

For more ways to evaluate health information, visit MedLinePlus, a resource maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine: medlineplus.gov/evaluatinghealthinformation.html

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For more information, please contact us at communityed@hss.edu.

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