How Should Clinicians Engage With Online Health Information?

23 November, 2019

A new paper in the AMA Journal of Ethics.

CITATION: How Should Clinicians Engage With Online Health Information?

Dónal P. O’Mathúna, PhD, MA

Journal of Ethics. AMA J Ethics. 2018;20(11):E1059-1066. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2018.1059.


Many adults, physicians, and medical students search the internet for health information. Open access has many benefits, but the variable quality of internet health information—ranging from evidence based to false—raises ethical concerns. Using Wikipedia as a case study, this article argues that everyone engaging with internet health information has ethical responsibilities. Those hosting and writing for health websites should ensure that information is evidence based, accurate, up to date, and readable and be transparent about conflicts of interest. Health care professionals, including medical students, have both ethical responsibilities to help patients avoid false or misleading health information and practical opportunities to improve the quality of internet health information. All users of such information—professionals and patients alike—should develop critical appraisal skills and apply them to internet health information to distinguish the good from the junk.

Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA:

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: