Trustworthy Web Sites

Can you believe that patients find their plastic surgeon online?   Isn’t that just wild?  Well, not really considering how many people find their spouses online.  And  I, myself, found my fabulous Aussie/Border Collie, Stella, online.  It’s a wild world wide web out there with lots of great information but also a lot of mis-information (driven by ignorance) and even dis-infomation (driven by malice, greed, sloth or one of the other 7 deadly sins).

With over bajillion  World Wide Web sites and the internet expanding every day, it may be difficult to know where to go for legitimate Web sources. I would like to help you evaluate the health information that you find online. A great resource for all plastic surgery patients to get started with is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ Website and the website of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.   All the members of these two organizations are fully trained, real meal deal plastic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery which is the ONLY REAL PLASTIC SURGERY BOARD.   Don’t be fooled by a fancy website!

There are methods for checking for the legitimacy and accuracy of a Web site.  Information with scientific based evidence and that is reviewed by multiple experts in that field will be more reliable. An organization which promotes useful and reliable online medical and health information is called “The Health on the Net Foundation”. This foundation allows you to search a subject through only HON-accredited Web sites.

The HON accredited Web sites must meet 8 accrediting criteria: the author is medically trained, the information compliments a doctor patient relationship rather than replacing one, your privacy is maintained, all sources are sited to allow for verification and further reading possibilities, all claims are backed up with evidence, the information is clearly displayed, funds for the web site are clearly disclosed, and the advertising is distinguishable from the article content.

When obtaining Web site information, I recommend  that you evaluate the following:

  • Organization Reputation
  • Who produced the site?
  • What is the stated purpose of the site? Are they trying to sell you something, rather than educate you?
  • Funding Sources. Does the website have a bias that is financially motivated?
  • When the information was last updated or reviewed?
  • Writing Quality (clear, balanced, correct grammar).

One resource that I use myself is the Cochrane Collaboration.  This is a non-profit group that critically looks at what sometimes passes for research.  For example, if a “scientific study” of a certain gizmo that magically melts fat is written by a researcher who is paid big bucks by the manufacturer of the certain gizmo that magically melts fat, Cochrane will point out that conflict of interest.

I really like the Mayo Clinic website.  It has great information on a wide range of health issues.  It’s the first place I go when I have a patient with a problem I have never heard of or have forgotten about (medical school was a long time ago!).

Online discussion forums such as RealSelf  provide good comments, ideas, advice and entertainment but the information can also be false, mean spirited, and doubtful. Always consider the source and discuss any concerns or ideas for your care with your surgeon.   If you are my patient and I find you going onto RealSelf instead of talking to me, I just might get a little cranky!

So surf away but surf safely!

Many thanks to Laurie Brenner, R.N. for researching this topic and helping with this guide. You rock, Laurie!