Learn About Health

Evaluating health information

What is high quality health information?

The Internet is a great place to find information about your health or the health of a loved one. But not all of the information you find online is good for your health. In fact, a lot of the information you find online about health can be inaccurate, out of date and misleading.

Staff at the Patient and Family Learning Centre want to ensure that patients and visitors at St. Michael’s Hospital have access to high quality health information - but what exactly is high quality health information?

High quality health information is current, reliable, relevant and accurate.

Evaluating Health Websites for Quality

When evaluating a website for quality, look for signs that will help you decide if the website will provide you with high quality health information.

The chart below will help you through the decision making process. Good signs (Green flag - read signs of a high quality website list below) are indicators of a high quality website, while red flags (Red flag - read list of red flags to watch out for below) means you should probably keep looking for a better site.

Adapted from “Finding and Evaluating Health Information Online” from Halton Healthcare’s Health Information Centre Online.

Signs of a high quality website Red flags to watch out for

The information is found on a website that has...

  • An easy to find 'About Us' or 'About this Site' page

  • Clear information about who runs the site

  • Information about the authors and their credentials (education, profession, etc.)

  • A clear stated purpose that does not try to sell you a product or service

  • Site owner's contact information (email, phone, mail, etc.).

  • A statement about how information uploaded to the site is reviewed.

  • Information written by other authors is clearly labelled. Look for a 'Reference' section.

  • References are made to medical journals (E.g., JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, etc.)

  • A review date, or copyright statement within the last¬†five¬†years

  • A privacy policy statement if the site collects personal information. Look for key phrases such as "Sign Up Now!" or "Become a Member"

  • Includes phrases such as "evidence" and "research".

The information is found on a website that has...

  • A lack of, or hard to find 'About Us' or 'About this Site' page

  • Little to no information about who runs the site

  • Frequent mention of, or advertisements of, a medical or drug company

  • 'Payment Methods' or a link to an online shopping website (usually found at the bottom of a website)

  • No information about the authors and their credentials

  • No purpose, or a stated purpose that is selling a product or a service

  • Site owner's contact information is missing or inaccurate

  • Advertisement banners

  • Contains phrases like "miracle cure" or "healed instantly"

  • No date for written health information

  • Missing or absent privacy policy statement if the site collects personal information.

More resources to help you

Link to nih.gov Evaluating health information from MedlinePlus
Link to mlanet.org Find good health information
Link to discern.org The DISCERN instrument

Understanding medical words

Link to nih.gov MedlinePlus medical dictionary
Link to umich.edu Plain language medical dictionary
Link to mlanet.org What did my doctor say?