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Poll: Almost 1-in-4 duped by unverified online medical advice
KENILWORTH, N.J. — A new survey from Harris Poll on behalf of Merck Manuals is highlighting the potential dangers of the vast amount of medical information on the Internet. The survey found that 24% of Americans have been misled by information about a symptom or illness because of an unverified online source. Among parents with children younger than 18, 30% have been misled, and 43% of millennials have been, too.
“Clicking the first article that pops up in an online search may be the easiest course when researching health issues, but it can also be dangerous if the information doesn't come from a credible source,” Merck Manuals editor-in-chief Dr. Robert Porter said. “These results underscore the need for greater access to and awareness of highly credible health information.”
In response to the survey data, Merck Manuals and its international counterpart MSD Manuals have developed a credibility test called the STANDS method. It includes:
- Source: Does the article or website cite authorities and have credentials?
- Transparent: Is it clear whether it is an education or commercial site?
- Accessible: Do you have to register, and is there contact info if users have concerns?
- Neutral: Is it a resource or is the information only given in exchange for users buying products or visiting advertised websites?
- Documented: Do medical experts update the resource?
- Secure: Can the content be accessed without sharing personal information?
The push for people to know whether they’re trusting credible sources for health information is part of the Manuals’ Global Medical Knowledge 202 initiative, which is pushing to make accurate and up-to-date medical information available to three billion people by 2020.
“The Internet will continue to be flooded with new health information and websites, which is why we need to stress to consumers the importance of identifying credible health information sources,” Porter said.