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Invited Commentary
March 2015

Risks of Imbalanced Information on US Hospital Websites

Author Affiliations
  • 1Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 2Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(3):441-443. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7400

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.

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