New York Doctor Tips for Searching for Medical Info Online

Posted on: September 16, 2013

by Dr. Harlan Weinberg, Medical Director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at NWH

Weinberg, (Harlan Weinberg, MD)Medical knowledge and information management is crucial to the delivery of health care.

“But nothing has changed clinical practice more fundamentally than one recent innovation: the Internet…Falsehoods are easily and rapidly propagated on the Internet: once you land on a site that asserts a false rumor as truth, hyperlinks direct you to further sites that reinforce the falsehood…1

As physicians, we are struggling to figure out how best to use this technology in the interests of our patients and ourselves. Although the Internet is reshaping the content of the conversation between doctor and patient, we believe the core relationship should not change…Physicians are in the best position to weigh information and advise patients, drawing on their understanding of available evidence as well as their training and experience.” (NEJM 2010; 362:1063-66; Untangling the Web — Patients, Doctors and the Internet; P. Hartzband, MD et al).

So, let’s look at some helpful suggestions that will unburden our medical internet searches:

1. Consult with your Medical Librarian for focused and academic clinical/research information.

2. Who is the responsible party that has published the health information online?  Are they an accepted, credible authority within the medical/health community?

3. Is the information evidence-based and peer-reviewed?  Is the information accurate?

4. Are updates being done in a timely manner to keep the information current?

5. What is the purpose/mission of the web site…Educational…Financial…Sensationalism…?

6. Is there a violation of the user’s privacy?

7. Be skeptical of published medical information if it has these warnings: Anonymous; Biased; Outdated;

Sensational treatments or cures; No evidence or resources cited; Conflicts of interest and/or Poor use of grammar and language.

Editor’s Note:  Harlan Weinberg, MD, is Medical Director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, NY, 45 miles north of New York City.  Dr. Weinberg offers expertly curated medical information on his website: