UCL News


Balancing the benefits and risks of diverse Internet health sites

5 October 2006

In the latest issue of the  'Journal of Medical Internet Research', Dr Henry Potts from the UCL Centre for Health Informatics and Multiprofessional Education (CHIME) considers the vast amount of online health information in his guest editorial.

Dr Potts contends that e-health researchers should take into account the breadth and diversity of online health resources.

There now exists a huge variety of health-related websites, online groups, blogs, wikis and more, which are often informal, untested and without clinical input. Online consumers shop around and use multiple sources.

Dr Potts said: "Online health consumers are not assessing the resources they find against evidence-based medicine criteria. The development of new online health resources should recognise this context."The article also cites the democratisation of production and distribution brought about by the Internet as being central to its transformative effect on society. However, traditional healthcare, given its safety-critical context, utilises an evidence base and risk management processes.

"These are conflicting trends," said Dr Potts. "The great value of the Internet is how easy it is to make material available, but the strictures of safety and proof of efficacy run counter to that. We need to consider how we can garner the benefits of the Internet - the democratisation of production and distribution that has produced so much content - while maintaining safe and good practice."

The current issue of the journal also includes the article 'Internet Interventions for Long-Term Conditions: Patient and Caregiver Quality Criteria' by UCL's Ms Cicely Kerr, Dr Elizabeth Murray, and Dr Fiona Stevenson (UCL Primary Care & Population Sciences).

To find out more, use the links at the bottom of this article