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Advice to patients on the safe use of the Internet

Evaluate the quality of a site

YOU are one of millions of people around the world seeking health information on the Internet and to cater to all these needs, there are thousands of websites providing health information. However, as you would be aware, not all sites are of equal reliability and not all sites provide accurate health advice. Presented below are some important tips on how to access online health information safely:

  • Websites provided by your government or recognised institutions (public hospitals, universities, ...) are offered for your benefit only and usually contain lots of practical and reliable information and tips.

  • If possible, ask your doctor for a list of reliable health websites to visit.

  • Always use more than one website to receive balanced information and to check information.

  • Upon visiting any website, check the source of the information provided (Who has written the health information? Is that person qualified to give this information? If not, have the references from which he/she obtained this information, been provided?)

  • Check the privacy policy of a website to know what information about you (non-personal) is collected by them and if you provide any personal information, what they do with this. (Some sites may share your email addresses with others for advertising)

  • Many reliable websites have a seal of certification from a trusted accrediting organization like the Health On the Net Foundation. This certification certifies that the site provides transparency regarding the authority, authorship, confidentiality, funding, is up-to date, honest about advertising and provides clear distinction between advertisement and editorial content. Always click to make sure that certification is still valid.
    The status of certification of a website can be confirmed using the HONcode Toolbar which can be downloaded at:
    Please remember that as a web page may change at any time, HON cannot verify and assure the content, and for any doubt, a health professional should be contacted.

  • Always be careful. DO NOT believe claims or promises of miraculous cures, wonder drugs and other extreme statements unless there is proof to these claims.

  • NEVER regard information found on the internet, in a book or anywhere else as medical advice. Only a medical professional can give you medical advice after consulting with you and gaining knowledge about your specific condition.

  • Those ordering drugs from online pharmacies based outside their country of residence should make sure that there are no legal laws against doing this. (Some countries do not allow medications from other countries into their own)

  • Quite a few online pharmacies have been involved in various scams. Thus you should be careful when accessing such sites. Many US online pharmacy sites have the seal of certification ‘VIPPS’ (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) developed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. These sites are usually reliable

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