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There is no magic pill: tips on better ways to research health topics online

You may be asking yourself, what’s out there to treat my condition? Has someone studied these treatments, and do they work?

“Finding good health information online can be tricky,” says Patricia Dickson, an advanced practice occupational therapist with the Holland Bone and Joint Program. “When it comes to researching treatments, there’s often no magic pill or shiny object. Avoid websites that promise amazing results for little effort. And for good reason.” Patricia sees patients at the Holland Centre, who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and says it’s not about finding the cutting-edge experimental treatment, but going for the evidence-based, reliable treatments, that will improve your condition both in the short and long term.

No matter the health topic you’re researching, the better quality of information you get from credible articles and published studies, the more informed you’ll be when you talk to your health care team, says Patricia, and Ekaterina Petkova, a librarian at the Holland Centre Library in Sunnybrook’s Library Services.

And if you’re not still sure about the credibility of information you find, ask for advice from a librarian at your local library.

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Website credible? Visit government or large non-profit health agency websites. Look for well-researched, best practice treatment information.


Author named? Credentials? Relevant to the health topic you’re researching? Are they linked to an academic institution?


Where is the information from? Our health care system is different from the United States. Try looking at Canadian sites first.


The same article on many sites doesn’t make it reliable. It may be paid for or sponsored, and may not be objective.


Are there typos in the article? Does it reference a list of credible and published articles?


Article or study been reviewed by a relevant specialist or group of specialists? Published in a peer-reviewed journal?


Timely information? When was the study done? How is the website updated? Do articles have dates?


When looking at studies, how many patients participated in the study? How was the study done?


About the author


Natalie Chung-Sayers