How to find reliable, evidence-based medical information

The image of a handsome doc doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the medical information!

There is so much health and medical information on the Internet that it can be dangerous to start searching for guidance on some concern that you have. If you are in a big hurry to find evidence-based information start here:

The Cochrane Collaboration: this is a first stop for many physicians who need to check on what is the current best evidence-based information based on Systematic Reviews.

A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. (See Section 1.2 in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.)

If you need more, visit CAPHIS, the Consumer and Patient Health Information Section of the Medical Library Association. CAPHIS maintains Top 100 List: Health Websites You Can Trust. We have downloaded the whole database for easy reference. If you are a US or Canadian resident and you need a medical library, see Find a Library.

Lastly, new-media startup VOX has a page that seems to fulfill the VOX promise of current, accurate information on a topic: Stop Googling your health questions. Use these sites instead.  This page is produced by Burden of Proof:

a regular column in which Julia Belluz (a journalist) and Steven Hoffman (an academic) join forces to tackle the most pressing health issues of our time — especially bugs, drugs, and pseudoscience thugs — and uncover the best science behind them.

Belluz and Hoffman do a nice job explaining why you won’t want Dr. Oz but you do want Cochrane Collaboration. They also have a useful page on Study Design, where you can read a tutorial that will help you assess the daily “health headlines” (if you must read them). I like their chart:

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