Conducting a Google search for a disease is how many people get information about their illness and possible treatments. In a national survey sponsored by the Pew Research Center, 72% of adult Internet users reported looking online for health information in the past 12 months and 43% reported searching for information about a specific medical treatment or procedure.1 Valuable data and tools—including hospital quality ratings, professional treatment guidelines, and patient decision aids—are increasingly available via the Internet and may help patients facing decisions about where to seek care or whether to undergo a medical procedure. Clinicians often encourage patients to engage with these types of information as a means of promoting patient involvement in medical decisions and offloading tasks from the too-brief clinical encounter. Unfortunately, valuable online health information may be hard to identify amid a growing number of online advertisements.
Schenker Y, London AJ. Risks of Imbalanced Information on US Hospital Websites. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(3):441-443. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7400