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GATOR approach can help surfers to evaluate Web-based health information
Date:5/25/2010

Patients researching health conditions on the internet should use reputable and frequently updated websites and not see online research as a replacement for consulting healthcare professionals, according to a paper in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

A research review carried out by a team from the University of Florida, USA, found that 86 per cent of adult patients use the internet to get answers to health-related questions, but only 28 to 41 per cent consult primary healthcare providers about the information they find out.

"This discrepancy suggests that the majority of users accept web-based health recommendations in lieu of professional advice" says Dr Bryan A Weber, an associate professor from the University's College of Nursing.

"The internet is a wonderful resource if used properly and there are some very informative and reliable health websites available if patients know what to look for."

That's why the team have come up with an acronym - GATOR (genuine, accurate, trustworthy, origin and readability) - to encourage healthy surfing. They are also encouraging patients to discuss what they have found on the internet with healthcare professionals, rather than using that information as a substitute for professional medical advice.

"Some people use the internet to find out more about medical conditions because they find it more convenient, less embarrassing or it enables them to avoid healthcare costs" explains Dr Weber.

"The big problem is that health sites are not regulated and it is down to the company or individual running the site to determine how accurate, responsible and frequently updated any information is.

"Added to that, the majority of patients don't have the medical knowledge to evaluate the reliability of the advice they are being given.

"We recognise that it is inevitable that the majority of patients will continue to seek health information onl
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Contact: Annette Whibley
wizard.media@virgin.net
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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