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Interactive Health Communication icon  Potential Problems with IHC Applications

There's a lot more health information at your fingertips than there was just a few years ago. Just a few minutes perusing the Internet will vividly demonstrate how widespread health information and advice has become. Millions of people are using the World Wide Web, listservs and email, CD-ROMs, stand-alone kiosks, and dial-in online services to either locate health information or participate in a support group. People want more say in, or at least more knowledge about, their health options. Health information may help people make better health decisions, prevent illness, and, ultimately, attain better health and lower health-care costs.

What's the problem?

Not all health information is created equal, and not everything out there is correct. When knowledgeable people have "surfed" the Web they have found dangerously misleading or incomplete health information that looks quite legitimate on the surface. The medium itself contributes to the problem. Anyone can make anything look slick and professional on the Web. Just because you're reading something on a computer screen doesn't mean it's any more credible than something you heard at a party or on a talk show. While most health information on the Internet was put there to help people, not all of it will necessarily be good for you.

Why should you care?

Because this is your health, or your family's health, that's at risk.

You're putting your health care in the hands of strangers whose intentions you may not know. These people may or may not be as wise as the health professionals you might otherwise consult.

Faulty information or advice can lead to unnecessary or harmful treatment, a delay in proper treatment, or an unwise health decision.

What can you do?

We have created this Web site to inform you of these issues and to help you navigate through these new technologies in order to locate the best information resources for you.

Take the exercises on this Web site and learn how to recognize quality information. Most of all, educate yourself about what to look for and ask tough questions.

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Source:  The Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health, March 1998

Comments:   Updated: 05/01/08