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Is the Internet your doctor?

Created date

November 22nd, 2011

Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and directs the provision of medical care at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. He is coauthor of Old Is the New Young, a guide to successful aging (available on

Computers have certainly come a long way in our lifetime. We use them for a whole host of reasons, but almost everyone relies on the Internet for fast answers to questions, especially health questions. Perhaps you ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes and want to find out which foods to eat to best control your disease. Or you are going to have cataract surgery and want to find out more about how safe the procedure is. Getting accurate answers can be confusing because of the sheer volume of information to navigate. How do you know what s reliable? Websites sponsored by U.S. government agencies are good sources of comprehensive health information. The National Institute on Aging, for instance, has information on many topics of interest to older adults (

Seeking advice online

Large professional organizations and well-known medical schools may also be good places to find factual health information. The Web address may give you a clue about who sponsors a particular site .gov identifies a government agency, .edu an educational institution, .org a professional or nonprofit organization, .com a commercial website, and .net can be almost anything. Be especially cautious with commercial websites which are typically trying to sell you something. Generally it s a good idea to also review more than one website to confirm the accuracy of the information. Some additional tips: Check to make sure the information is current, and contact information should be easy to find. Your privacy must always be protected your personal identification shouldn t be requested. Old adages are good reminders when searching the Internet: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is, and no one has a miracle cure for any health condition. Most importantly, never change your medical care regimen based only upon what you read. Although Internet health information is a wonderful resource, it is always best to discuss your findings with your doctor before making personal health care decisions. In good health, Dr. Narrett