Be Wary of the World Wide Web

Chances are at least one of your patients has come to you asking about something he or she read on an Internet health site. And it could be that what patients are reading is misleading at best.

"What appears to be a medically oriented Web site may actually be an advertising tool for a third party with a financial incentive to exaggerate or downplay a product's benefits or dangers," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott cautions in a new consumer alert . Those with "financial incentives" include plaintiff's attorneys and class action law firms.

The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) shares his concern. CMPI says it has found that health-related Web sites sponsored by personal injury lawyers may appear to be credible online resources but are often designed to "sell, deceive, or frighten" patients. CMPI says "many 'medical information' Web sites have not been created by reputable health care sources, but by personal injury lawyers trolling for clients."

So does the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. It issued a statement warning patients to "use a discerning eye when seeking medical advice or other health information on the Internet."

How can you help your patients separate fact from fiction? TMA has developed a checklist [ PDF ] to help patients evaluate the validity of health care Web sites.

 

Action , April 1, 2008

Last Updated On

June 30, 2010