Consumer Guide to Health Care
Guide to Using Health Sites on the Web
Where to start |
Find reliable sites |
Dealing with scams |
Buying online |
All external hyperlinks are provided for your information and
for the benefit of the general public. The Department of Health Services does not testify to, sponsor, or endorse the accuracy of the
information provided on externally linked pages.
Where to start
Find reliable sites you can trust
Many Internet sites provide accurate and
up-to-date health information. Others provide information that
is incorrect and even dangerous. Ask these questions when
judging an Internet health site.
- Who maintains and pays for the site?
Almost anyone can set up a health website. Reliable
sites will tell you who their authors and sponsors are. This
can help you understand the purpose of the site. Some sites
provide information. Others are designed to sell products or
promote certain points of view.
- How often is the site updated?
Information about medical conditions and treatments is
always changing. A good website will clearly state when the
site was last updated. Look for sites that update their
- Does the site include a disclaimer?
Sites dispensing medical information or advice should.
Reputable sites will tell you to always check with your
doctor or other medical provider for definite information on
your particular situation.
- Does the site promise “miracle”
It may be tempting to believe promises of miracle cures.
Unfortunately, most turn out to be untrue. Double check
information on other websites and always consult
your doctor before trying a new treatment for your
- Does the site subscribe to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation?
The Health on the Net (HON) Foundation has established the
Code of Conduct for medical and health Web sites. Sites that
subscribe to the code must follow eight principles set by the foundation.
Although there are many trustworthy sites that do not
subscribe to the HON Code, this certification is one more way to
judge the reliability of a site. Please note that the HON
logo may appear on sites that are not certified. To verify
certification, click on the HON logo. You should be directed
to a page that includes the HON code number for the site.
Where to turn if you suspect a
- If you find a website you think is illegally selling
human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, biological
products, foods, dietary supplements, or cosmetics over the
Internet, report it to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- To file a complaint regarding a possible fraudulent,
deceptive, or unfair business practice, call the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP
(1-877-382-4357), or use the FTC complaint
Buying medical products online
Buying drugs and other medical products online may seem cheap
and convenient. But some of the products may not be of the same
quality as those purchased through more traditional sources. Be
especially careful of sites that provide drugs or other medical
products without a prescription. Ordering from an online
pharmacy that is VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites)-certified by the
Association of Boards of Pharmacy is one precaution you can take. You can
for a certified pharmacy at the Association's website.
For more information on what to look for when buying medical products online,
try these sites from the Food and Drug Administration:
Protecting your privacy
You are never guaranteed absolute privacy when you are
carefully. If a site asks for personal information, make sure you
know why it is needed and what the information will be used for.
Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer education, research, and advocacy program,
provides a fact sheet on Online Privacy: Using
the Internet Safely.
The Internet can be an important source of health
information, but be careful. Always talk to your
doctor or other health care provider before following advice or
buying products from online sources.
March 15, 2013