Using the Internet to Access Health Information

Can It Deliver?

Published in: Advances Newsletter, issue 4, 2001, p. 5-6

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2001

by Gretchen K. Berland, Marc N. Elliott, Leo S. Morales, Jeffrey I. Algazy, Richard L. Kravitz, Michael S. Broder, David E. Kanouse, Jorge A. Munoz, Juan-Antonio Puyol, Marielena Lara, et al.

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The rapid and widespread adoption of the Internet as a medical information source by consumers raises concerns about the quality, accuracy, comprehensiveness and clarity of online health information. To assess the effectiveness of the Internet as a consumer health information resource, this study evaluated the information available on four medical conditions: breast cancer, childhood asthma, depression and obesity. The researchers used several popular search engines and visited a number of well-known health-related Web sites to examine the accessibility of the information, its quality and the reading grade level of the content. The Internet has the potential to be a powerful resource for both patients and health care professionals, but more research is needed in order to assess how this medium can be best used to improve the doctor-patient relationship.

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