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Posted on 10-28-2014

Medical Information for Pets on the Internet

Google and the internet are available on every Kindle, i-Phone and computer. This is an instant source of information for everything from bus schedules to the latest news from Hollywood. Increasingly, Americans will check the internet for medical information and advice.  Many of us in healthcare refer to Google as “Dr. Google” when used as a medical reference.

But how accurate is this information? Few comprehensive studies have been done, but Scientific American magazine recently cited a study by Dr. Rachel Moon of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study, from 2012, used the internet to find infant sleeping advice and safety protocols for avoiding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They performed 13 total internet searches with variations on the keywords “infant sleeping position”. They then reviewed the top 100 sites from each search. These 1300 sources of information where then cross-checked with current pediatric guidelines.

They found the correct advice 43.5% of the time. What was more so shocking was that many of these websites were run by governments and universities as well as individuals. Blogs by individuals had the lowest accuracy of information at only 25.7%! Universities tended to do the best, but even their information was found to be out of date. Errors in the websites happened for a number of reasons. The most common mistake was simply that the information was out of date.

Doctors and veterinarians are required to complete continuing education credits every year to ensure they are up-to-date with cutting edge information. They are required by law to do this in order to renew their license. “Dr. Google” does not have such requirements. An experienced, trained, knowledgeable, and licensed healthcare professional will always be a better source of valuable healthcare advice than Dr. Google.

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