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OVERVIEW

image SUMMARY

  • Proper guidance of patients and their families can help make the internet a valuable tool for education and ease patient anxiety about diagnoses and treatment.

  • Professional society websites offer valuable and reliable information for both physicians and patients.

  • Online health information services provide physicians with useful patient-education handouts detailing common skin procedures, diagnoses, and treatments.

  • In addition to educational materials, many of these websites share links to online patient support groups and public forums to discuss skin cancer experiences.

image DON’T FORGET

  • Physicians can help guide patients to accurate and reliable information on the internet that is geared toward the public.

  • Guiding patients to good resources can be a valuable asset in properly educating patients about various topics related to skin cancers. This can supplement the education provided during office visits.

image CLINICAL PEARLS

  • Providing credible and up-to-date online resources can help improve physician-patient rapport, ease underlying anxiety, and guide treatment decisions of challenging cases.

image PATIENT EDUCATION POINTS

  • As there is generally no editorial control, information on the internet may be inaccurate or outdated. For this reason, both physicians and patients should critically evaluate information gathered online.

INTRODUCTION

Over the past decade, the internet has had a tremendous impact on the way health care professionals and the general public conduct research about health care and disease-related information. A recent report estimated that approximately 80% of adult internet users have conducted online searches for health or medical information.1 Internet-based information has advantages over most medical publication sources because it is up to date, easily accessible, and reflects current topics and thinking. As there is generally no editorial control, information on the internet may be inaccurate. It is also often difficult to discern current versus outdated information because publication dates are usually not applied for most of the content. For this reason, both physicians and patients should critically evaluate information gathered online.

The key to choosing credible websites includes a thorough evaluation of website content for its relevance, accuracy, and credibility. In addition to providing website evaluation guidelines to patients, physicians can provide patients with a list of dependable and informative websites. In a recently conducted survey, the majority of patients reported that they would like physicians to recommend specific websites to them.2 The general steps needed to critically evaluate a website along with websites providing information on skin cancer will be reviewed in this chapter.

EVALUATION OF INTERNET RESOURCES

Several indicators can be used to evaluate the quality of the information provided on a website. These indicators include, but are not limited to, easy identification of the background and authority of the authors, the date and nature of recent updates, the permanency of the information posted, matching the breadth of information contained to the searcher’s needs, the domain of the website, comparability with ...

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