You’d think that in this age of instant access, making health care decisions would be a lot easier.
Unfortunately, the Google age is not without its pitfalls.
Pitfall number one is the sheer volume of information.
A simple online search for a health care condition nearly always yields an endless list of effective treatments. And unfortunately, it can be very hard to choose the best one.
Our patients tell us how confused, conflicted, and paralyzed they feel in today’s vast information universe.
When it comes to identifying reliable health information, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse.
You’re sure to find totally opposing viewpoints on just about any given treatment. Some “authorities” will dub the treatment the best thing since Saran Wrap, while others will present credible-sounding evidence that the treatment is toxic and your worst possible option.
How to sort out what’s true? We suggest you begin by evaluating the source of the information.
Here are some pointers for judging online health information:
- Product reviews are always suspect, if they’re written by a manufacturer (or the manufacturer’s competitors).
- Keep in mind that medical doctors are constantly wooed and schooled by the pharmaceutical companies.
- What about online news sources? We’ve noticed that medical reporters generally parrot the conventional wisdom, citing studies that are often paid for by the pharmaceutical companies.
These studies are often flawed. Or the studies recommend inaccurate doses, or the wrong forms of nutrients. Or they’ll claim that a nutrient is ineffective based on testing for conditions that it isn’t actually intended to treat. (Studies on St. John’s Wort are a notorious example.)
Let’s face it, supplement makers have an immense financial interest in persuading us that toxic and expensive drugs are better than their non-toxic, less expensive natural alternatives.
Because the media tend to look more favorably on conventional treatments, they love to portray unusual or new natural treatments with suspicion if not actual ridicule – even if their efficacy is well-established.
(Fact: the media once ridiculed hand-washing for preventing the spread of infection!)
What about evaluating health care providers?
Are the online consumer review websites trustworthy? It’s good to remember that a high percentage of online reviews are written by the most disgruntled clients, not by the many clients who may have gotten good results.
In our experience, it’s a good idea to be particularly suspicious of Yelp reviews. That’s because Yelp uses questionable practices to decide which reviews it will post or reject.
- Yelp will drop reviews by people who aren’t consistently Yelping.
- Yelp uses a secret algorithm to decide if a positive review is written by someone with a vested interest. Yelp drops suspect reviews, or posts them on a back page. And the Yelp algorithm can be fooled; it may decide that a highly suspect negative review is legitimate.
Better to rely on reviews by known entities such as friends, family, and other health care practitioners.
Don’t let yourself drown in the information ocean! Relax, take your time, and trust your common sense. When looking for a practitioner, remedy, or therapeutic approach, use your brain, trust your intuition, and consult your network of trusted sources.
Before you decide to drop a treatment because of a few negative reviews, talk to your practitioner about your concerns. You may be surprised to discover how much he or she knows about the treatment. If your provider has long experience with the treatment, he/she will be able to give you reliable advice.
Give the treatment some time before you decide that it isn’t working, or that your practitioner isn’t right for you.
Remember, it’s rare for there to be only one effective treatment for a health care challenge.
Find out more about Dr. Connie’s work HERE.