We live in an age where information is right at our fingertips. Sometimes this is a good thing. I love being able to google restaurant allergen menus, text my sister to ask what her favorite brand of deodorant is, and easily find hiking maps at our favorite vacation spot.
However, as a healthcare professional, the Internet age also means LOTS of health information online. Some information is reputable, some is not. These days pretty much anyone can do a “study.” So, how do you tell the difference between good information and bad information?
Look beyond the inital reporting of the study by the news source. Try to at least find the abstract of the study. It should tell you most of the following details.
Who conducts the actual study? Is it someone who would benefit from favorable results or an unbiased 3rd party?
What kind of study is it? Double-blind studies are great.
Is it a peer-reviewed study?
Is it published in a reputable journal?
Do the results and the conclusion make sense? I fear that many in today’s society aren’t really THINKING about the information being presented to them. If my result is that toothpaste A and B clean coffee stains the same, but I conclude that toothpaste A is superior – that simply doesn’t make sense.
Are the limitations of the study listed? If I cleaned the coffee stains with tootpaste A and B twice a day and toothpaste C and D once a day, then I might say that my result is that toothpaste A and B clean coffee stains the same. If I was conducting a good study, I would say that my study had limitations because I cleaned toothpast A and B twice a day instead of twice a day. Therefore, I could not say that toothpastes A and B were superior.
If you are unsure, ask a trusted professional!
Are you overwhelmed by the amount of health information available online and on TV?