The Internet: Family Safety and Medical Information


 
 
 
By Russell Durkee, DO
Published in Healthy Viewpoints 
 
This article is about a technology that affects everyone… the internet. Essentially all of my patients, and the health care providers that serve them, are somehow impacted by this electronic information phenomenon. I want to address some of its benefits and why we must approach it with caution.

The first issue I hear from patients relates to the overwhelming amount of medical information available on the web. Even if you know how to surf the web, always consider the reliability of a site. Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it is correct. Many sites mean well, but are not accurate and may in fact inadvertently hurt people with misinformation. Your doctor may have some medical sites he or she recommends.

Here are some references that will help you evaluate web sites.

General medical info you can trust:

The best thing to do when seeking information is to check several sources. Ask your doctor if you have specific medical questions. Only your health care provider can determine whether the suggestion or treatment you have found online is compatible with your health situation or any medications you may already be taking. It may be helpful to print out the info or jot down your questions to discuss with your doctor.

Be careful of sites that sell medicines, supplements or medical supplies. You need to know what you are getting and that it is safe. Your health care provider can advise you to serious side effects, risks or interactions with other medications.

Self diagnosing a health problem and ordering medications to treat it can have serious consequences. Visit www.fda.gov/buyonline when considering buying online health products.

The internet can be a fun place to learn interesting facts both medical and non-medical. That brings up another concern my patients often have–how to keep their families safe when using the internet. The best advice I have is to never leave your children unsupervised. Computers should be located in the main living areas with a time limit on its use. Good filtering software can help protect your computer from accessing problem web sites. Here’s a short list and most offer a trial period.

Filters:

Lastly, you should know about another common pitfall. I see it in my own family, especially those that aren’t familiar with using e-mail. Spam and Phish.

Spam is an inappropriate attempt to use e-mail to send a message to people who didn’t ask for it. Basically, if you don’t know where it came from or who sent it, don’t open it, delete it. Spam can also contain viruses and other problems.

Phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire your personal and professional information, (such as user names, passwords and credit card details) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an e-mail communication.

The internet can be an amazing tool. Educating yourself and your family about the internet will ultimately allow you to use it wisely.