What can I use the internet for?
It can be really handy to have so much information at your fingertips. The internet can help you to manage your condition in a number of ways. For example:
- you can use the NHS website to search for and compare health services, including GPs, opticians and support services for different conditions
- some surgeries and hospitals will let you book and manage appointments online
- you can increase your knowledge of your condition and how it can be managed, adding to the information your doctor has given you
- there is a growing number of apps to help you manage your health, for example by allowing you to order repeat prescriptions or monitoring how far you’ve walked
- there are online forums and support groups for many health conditions, allowing you to share experiences with people in similar situations.
Buying medication online can be risky. You should only buy from a registered online pharmacy. Read the NHS guidance on the dangers of buying medicine online.
At some point, you’ll probably need to search for something on the internet. You might do this through a search engine or through a search function on a particular website, such as the NHS website. Here are some ways to get the best results from your search:
- The internet is huge. When we typed diabetes into a search engine, we got 572 million results! So try to narrow down your search. For example, you might want to specify the type of diabetes you have or your precise question, such as “medication for Type 2 diabetes”.
- Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase, such as “pain management programmes” or “arthritis support groups”.
- If you’re searching for a service, such as a GP or a counsellor, search through a relevant professional website rather than a general search engine like Google. For example:
- for NHS services, use the NHS website’s ‘Find services’ page
- for talking therapies, such as counselling, try the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website.
- You might want to limit your search to UK sites for some information. For example, if you’re trying to find out about services or treatment available to you, these may be different in different parts of the world.
Things to check
Check the date
Medical advice changes over time, so make sure what you’re reading is up-to-date. Some websites include their publication date at the bottom of the page.
Who has produced it?
Who has written it and why? For example, are they just trying to pass on information or do they have other aims, such as trying to sell you something?
Does it look professional?
Is it well-written, without errors? Do links work?
Does it apply to me?
What is true for one person may not be true for you, even if you have the same condition. Is the author expressing an opinion based on their own experience or stating a fact and giving evidence to back it up?
Does it seem accurate?
Check if it is endorsed by an organisation you trust, such as the NHS. You can also check if it has been accredited as a source of reliable health information, for example by the Patient Information Forum, or if it follows general guidelines set out in the NHS content policy. You can also look for information from well-known charities, or government-run organisations (look for websites ending in .gov).
Does the information list its sources and do they look reputable? For example, is it based on scientific evidence? See if you can cross-check the information with another website you trust or in a printed source. You can also check the website to see if they provide information on how they produce their content.
Remember, if you’re unsure about anything, check with your GP or consultant. Don’t base an important medical decision on online information alone.
Some good places to start
For general health information:
NHS website – has a Health A-Z and Medicines A-Z of information, and lets you find and compare NHS services
Patient.info – healthcare information written and reviewed by doctors. It also has discussion forums for many health conditions.
To share experiences:
Healthtalk – information based on people's real-life experiences. It includes videos where they talk about their experiences.
Health Unlocked – a social network where people can talk about their conditions. It’s moderated by patient organisations and charities.
And for specific conditions:
Alzheimer’s Society – for information about dementia
Mind – for information about mental health
This isn’t an exhaustive list. There are charities for many health conditions offering information and advice.