Dr Paula in an e-mail
response says that medical information on the Web is subject to the
same potential errors, and may deliberately mislead, as medical
information obtained elsewhere.
"Claims made that seem extraordinary are not likely to be valid
but at least looking for peer-reviewed literature supporting the
claims are likely to result in getting valuable info," she points
She advises consumers to check credentials of all professionals
by searching for their history at major medical associations. "Be
wary of degrees that are not licensed and always check with your own
physician before trying any treatment recommended on the Net," she
Upah, also in an email, proposes that consumers deal with trusted
brands and sources of content that clearly disclose both the author
and any financial relationship that may have tainted the content
itself. "This information should be clearly posted directly on the
article and the site itself," he says.
Malaysian physician and Web site operator Dr Muruga Vadivale says
that consumers can verify information by looking for the Hon Code or Medinex logo or similar certified
sites. "There is no guarantee, but chances that the information is
authentic are better."
Nonetheless, quack sites are quite difficult to spot, according
to consultant physician and haematologist Dr Alan Teh. He recommends
consumers check out Quackwatch or Federal Trade Commission for recent
postings. Due to the sheer volume of misinformation on the Net,
consumers must develop a critical mind and the ability to filter out
unreliable information, Dr Teh adds.
Most medical professionals agree that the Net is a proven
resource to families with ailments, chronic diseases and
life-threatening illnesses. Public discussion boards and advocate
groups have created useful and supportive online communities.
At drkoop.com, there are 130 chat support groups peer-led by a
person who either has the condition or a specific interest in the
condition. "Interest and involvement in those communities continue
Adds Dr Paula: "The suggestions shared between families dealing
with similar illnesses can be invaluable and this information would
not have been easily obtained without the far reaching arms of the
Medical practitioners too have developed a healthy camaraderie
online. Dr Teh set up a mailing list for doctors in 1996. Within a
year, it grew to a doctors-only bulletin board system or Dobbs providing doctors a
forum to discuss sensitive issues privy to the group. To date, 700
Malaysian doctors have registered with Dobbs.
"Solo practice can be quite a lonely experience. Dobbs has
enabled doctors to reach out to fellow colleagues no matter how
remotely situated, as long as they have Internet access," he