The worldwide web is the most common resource of health informatics research and health information in the US. Statistics from the Pew Research Center show that approximately 60% of Americans look up health related queries online and more than half of this percentage reported that the information they acquire from the Internet have a big influence on their health issues and decisions.
In a recent study published in the journal Decision Support Systems, depending on what is searched for, the returned information varies in quality and validity. This finding may prove to be dangerous to one’s health. The research was based in the University of Florida.
Furthermore, as compared to a quarter of Internet users who use customized search tools within a health-related website, 65% of people use search engines when inquiring for a health related concern.
The health informatics study was done by utilizing Google’s search engine entering about 2,000 or more different health-related terms. The quality of the web pages which were returned by the search were validated by the research team through checking if the said sites were certified by the nonprofit Health on the Net Foundation or were included in a consumer page administrated by the National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus.
Researchers found that queries related to preventive and social health returned lower quality information than those related to diagnosis, treatment and management of certain diseases and conditions. Some of querie related to different fellowship personal statements like nephrology fellowship personal statement or gastroenterology fellowship personal statement, for example.
Through the study, it was found that more than half of the information returned by search engines was of high quality. However, the team of health informatics experts deems that more can be done in improving the quality of available health information online. This can be addressed by examining existing healthcare health informatics research websites for the quality of their contents and that government-based health organizations should focus on educating online users by disseminating higher quality information especially in subject and topics which lack sufficient data online.
Study co-author Christopher A. Harle, an assistant professor of health services research, management and policy at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions pointed out the significance of their findings which is assurance to the health consumers and patients that high-quality information can be found in the Internet.