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Internet users should know their sources.

NEW YORK -- Although Americans are hungry for online information pertaining to health care, they often fail to check the background of the sources of such information, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. It says about 85 million individuals who seek health and medical advice online admit they only "sometimes," "hardly ever" or "never" check either the source or date of the resources they use.

That failure to check on sources could endanger their health care if incomplete, inaccurate or even false information is accessed, warns Dr. John Connolly, former president of New York Medical College.

Connolly, now president and chief executive officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., asserts that it is in the best interest of the online consumer to verify the history and reliability of a health care source before relying on the information it provides.

According to Pew, 80% of American Internet users (113 million adults) have sought information on at least one of 17 health topics in the past year. Typical seekers of information through the Web are women and college graduates.

Sixty-six percent of health seekers began their last online health inquiry at a search engine; 27% began at a health-related web site.

Other key findings of the report include:

* Forty-eight percent of health seekers say their quest for information was undertaken on behalf of someone else. An additional 8% say the search was on behalf of someone else as well as to answer their own questions.

* More than half (53%) of health seekers report that their most recent health information session had some type of impact on their self-care habits or the care that they provide for someone else.

* Nearly three-fourths (74%) say they felt reassured that they could make appropriate health care decisions after their last search. Most also felt confident enough to raise new questions with their health care professional.

* A quarter of health seekers say they felt overwhelmed by the amount of information they found online during their last search. Small groups also felt frustrated by the lack of information or by confusing information.

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Title Annotation:Continuing Education; online health management
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 20, 2006
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