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Medical advice via internet injurious to health

world Updated: Jul 05, 2010 17:30 IST

IANS
Highlight Story

Patients using internet search engines to find a remedy for their injuries or illnesses may end up getting wrong or incomplete diagnoses.

A report in the latest issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery suggests that injuries are aggravated when patients attempt their own treatments.

Information about the most common sports injuries varies widely in quality, according to the study, which found newspaper articles and personal websites the least accurate information sources, Daily Mail reported.

"The reason that we decided to undertake this study is that patients are presenting to their physicians office with increasing frequency armed with printouts of information obtained from the internet," said Madhav A. Karunakar, an orthopaedic surgeon and study author.

"Physicians and patients should be aware that the quality of information available online varies greatly," he said, adding that quality contents over health information on the web have not grown at the same rate that internet use has.

The study authors chose 10 of the most common sports medicine diagnoses and reviewed the online information available on them.

Using the two most frequently used search engines Google and Yahoo the experts reviewed the top 10 search results for each diagnosis, looking for completeness, correctness, and clarity of the information.

They also noted whether the site's owner was a non-profit organisation, news source, academic institution, individual, physician, or commercial enterprise.

In terms of content, Karunakar said, non-profit sites scored the highest, then academic sites (including medical journal sites), and then certain non-sales oriented commercial sites.

Commercial sites such as those sponsored by companies selling a drug or treatment device were very common but frequently incomplete.

"About 20 per cent of the sites that turned up in the top ten results were sponsored sites," Karunakar said.

"These site owners are motivated to promote their product, so the information found there may be biased. We also found that these sites rarely mentioned the risks or complications associated with treatment as they are trying to represent their product in the best possible light."

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