Be Smart When Searching Online for Health Information
When it comes to our health, it’s understandable to want to be informed. Many Ontarians search online for health information and use health and fitness apps. Having healthcare information at your fingertips can be invaluable for people who want to take care of themselves and their families.
Yet there are downsides, such as separating good information from the bad online, and the danger of self-diagnosis – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when our screens are flooded with a mixture of facts, opinions, evidence-based research, and myths. Now more than ever it’s important to be savvy about online sources of health information. Searching for reputable information about conditions, treatments, and personal well-being should never replace the insights of a regulated healthcare professional.
More than 400,000 healthcare professionals including doctors, pharmacists, audiologists, massage therapists, and many more are regulated in Ontario by organizations called “colleges.” However, we are not schools or associations that represent the interests of healthcare professionals. These colleges protect the public by:
• setting the requirements for becoming a regulated health professional in Ontario, permitting only those qualified to practise.
• setting and enforcing practice standards so that you and your family receive safe, ethical, and competent healthcare.
• requiring regulated health professionals to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date so they can provide safe, ethical, and competent care throughout their careers.
If you are confused about information you find online, you can talk to a regulated healthcare professional to help you make sense of it and determine what is accurate and relevant to your care and treatment.
Here are some dos and don’ts for using online healthcare information to your best advantage:
• Do use the information that interests you to prepare for your appointment and develop questions you want to ask your healthcare professional.
• Do ask a healthcare professional to recommend websites or apps, including ones from trusted sources that have objective information.
• Don’t rely exclusively on online information to make critical choices about your health, or to decide between care or treatment options.
Sharing the information you’ve found online with your healthcare professional is not a challenge to their authority. You have the right to ask questions and to make decisions about your care and treatment.
Before your next appointment, visit ontariohealthregulators.ca to find a regulated healthcare professional near you.