Health information on the internet: patient empowerment or patient deceit?

Indian J Med Sci. 2004 Aug;58(8):321-6.


Internet is the biggest medical library in the world. It has transformed the way many health seekers find health information. Seekers on net have exponentially increased from 54 million in 1998 to 110 million in 2002 (U.S. figures) and are ever increasing. Act of looking for health or medical information is the third most popular activities online. Search engines are used by almost 81% of the e-patients to look for the information they want. Internet is fast becoming an influential force as more than 70% consumers say that the information on the net has influenced their treatment decisions. However, the reliability of all the health information available on the Internet is questionable. Numerous studies have indicated deficiencies in the quality of information on the Internet. Due to technical and commercial reasons, the results provided by various search engines can be potentially biased. Only about a quarter of health seekers thoroughly check the source, timeliness of information every time they search for health information. In fact, most adults from USA, Japan, France and Germany who participated in a recent survey thought online health care information to be trustworthy, of good quality, easy to understand and easy to find. Efforts are now being taken to ensure the quality of health information on the Internet. Patients need to be educated about the worthiness of a site and also be prescribed the right sites to be consulted for information.

MeSH terms

  • Health Education / standards*
  • Humans
  • Internet / standards*
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards