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How to shop for your doctor online

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Quick question: Have you ever searched for a health symptom online, only to end up more confused than ever? If so, you’re certainly not alone: A recent Pew Internet survey found that four out of five Internet users have searched for health information online, yet more than half haven’t been able to find useful information. What gives? Well, you may be dealing with what’s known as a “doctor in disguise.” From average Joes to celebrities with a personal connection to the Disease Du Jour, everyone seems to be weighing in on their health causes and concerns —and spreading misinformation as they do it.

So, what’s a click-and-pointer to do? Well, the good news is, the medical community is starting to take note of this giant hole in trustworthy information, and is becoming part of the solution by playing a larger role in social media. And what the more savvy doctors are finding is that it’s very simple: A little transparency goes a long way.
In order to make sure you’re receiving trustworthy information online, you should be able to answer these three simple questions:

Q. Who’s answering my question? If you can’t find background information about the doctor answering your question such as their board certification, degree, number of years of experience, any misconduct on their record, hospital affiliations, professional achievements, other patient and peer reviews and their contact information, look elsewhere.

Q. Can I contact the expert directly? Sure, someone might have a shiny resume and impressive credentials, but how do you know they are actually the ones answering your question? The ability to have direct contact with a medical professional helps ensures that they are who they say they are – and you are getting information from a real doctor.

Q. What have other patients or peers said about them? One of the biggest factors behind decision-making online are others’ opinions—seeing how your expert has been reviewed by other patients is a big stepping stone toward building trust.

As with anything, there are plusses and minuses to the rise in social media when it comes to getting health information. And while, as with all social media, there will continue to be misinformation and “posers,” it’s up to us to empower ourselves by knowing what questions to ask about people dispensing medical information to make sure we are making smarter, more informed decisions about our health. provides trusted answers to consumer health and legal questions every 9.7 seconds. In Avvo’s free Q&A forum consumers can get free legal advice or free medical advice from more than 125,000 participating lawyers, doctors and dentists.


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