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How to Spot Health Misinformation

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Technology has made it possible to access pretty much any kind of information about your health online—anytime, anywhere. But just because you read it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Far from it.

Just as you would not accept a random person’s opinion about a matter of importance, neither should you necessarily take information from online resources at face value.  Below are some suggestions to help you separate fact from fiction, determine the value of information, and generally use online resources wisely.

Investigate the Source

When you’re reading an article, take some time to investigate the website, the author, the source material, and the date of the information. Look at the website’s mission and contact information, as well as the author’s background, to determine whether there may be any bias in the writing.

he source material and links are also a good way to verify that other people with established medical credentials support the story. 

Check the Date

The date is important. Information changes fast, especially when it comes to healthcare. An older piece may lack crucial information that was unavailable or unknown when it was written. 

Established medical sites periodically review posted information so that new data is incorporated in a timely way. Make sure the article is not only relevant, but current.

Beware of Clickbait and Satire

We’ve all fallen for a clickbait headline, or content designed to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link. It’s eye-catching and promises some critical, even game-changing, information to follow. Then we read on and we don’t find anything useful or groundbreaking within the article.

Be sure to read the story in full before you buy in to those attention-grabbing lead lines. 

Satire is another potential trap. If the article you’re reading seems too outrageous to be true, it just may be intended to entertain, not educate. Do your research to be sure. 

Strive for Objectivity 

As you’re reading, take a step back and consider the content objectively.  Sometimes we are drawn to things that tell us what we want to hear. Self-fulfilling prophecies are not a substitute for well-researched, substantiated medical information. Do your best to remove your own feelings when making a decision about the validity of the material.

If you’re still not sure what to believe, don’t hesitate to ask your family doctor. Physicians not only treat and prevent illness, but are dedicated to caring for the overall health and well-being of our community.

author name

Adam S. Wilikofsky, PhD

Adam S. Wilikofsky, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Downtown. He is graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his residency at Beth Israel Medical Center.

Call: 717-544-4950

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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