A Brief Guide to Identifying High-Quality Asthma Information
The amount of time I spend on the internet might not anymore be considered abnormal, but I do spend a lot of time online—between working, researching, dealing with emails, engaging on social media, and exploring as much technology as my non-coding brain can dive into. Fortunately, during the course of my time in post-secondary education studying in a health field, I gained a pretty solid grasp on how to identify high quality information on health topics—including asthma (also how I somehow found myself with The Journal of Asthma & Allergy Educators arriving at my door quarterly for 2.5 years!).
When doing online research on health topics, it’s especially important to be accessing high quality information, because the impact it can have may be significant—similar to Dia’s reflections on online doctor reviews, while it’s important that you are able to understand the information presented to you, it’s also important that it is medically and scientifically sound. Though you should never change your care based on what you read online, your doctor is much more likely to consider what you’ve read online if what you’re sharing with them is well-constructed by professionals in the field.
How to identify high quality information on asthma, and other health topics:
- Check the author’s credentials. Search the document for a medical credential and/or affiliation with a university. These mean that the information has probably been peer-reviewed (meaning, a panel of experts of similar academic standing has reviewed the information for accuracy. Some common abbreviations you may see indicating a medical professional include: MD (medical doctor), PhD (check out what their area of study was, but it’s likely this person knows how to research very well regardless!), RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist), AE-C or CAE (Asthma Educator – Certified or Certified Asthma Educator), CRE (Certified Respiratory Educator), DPharm or PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy/Pharmaceutical Sciences), OT (occupational therapist), PT (physical therapist), MPH (Master of Public Health), and so on! These abbreviations may vary a bit based on where you are from. In some cases, the article may be written by a person without any credentials, but are adequately cited and/or reviewed by a medical professional.
- Check the website URL. Simply, a URL is a web address, or Universally Recognized Locator, it just tells the internet where you’re going.1 Using a .edu (education) website or in some cases, .org (organization, often non-profit) may render better results than a .com site.However, a .com or .net site can still be a solid choice if authors have adequate credentials and cite their sources!For instance, while some posts are opinion based, most of our writers here at Asthma.net are either health professionals, like respiratory therapists, or have a degree from a recognized university and are regarded as patient experts.For example, while I’m not a medical professional, I have a Bachelor of Physical & Health Education degree. I studied Kinesiology & Applied Health (which spans not only anatomy, physiology and exercise training, but also exercise and sport psychology, coaching, sociology, and much more). And, considering I’m sharing how to identify high quality information, I can assure you I’m doing my best at using these criteria when I’m writing for Asthma.net!
- Check the citations. The best websites (and anybody who does not want to be accused of plagiarizing) will cite their information. Here on Asthma.Net, we usually use a little number (superscript) and then at the bottom, follow it by a link to the article or a citation for what’s being shared. Other sites may link directly to the article they’re referencing. Either way, you can check to see that the citations the authors are using meet this kind of criteria, too.
- Check the date. And, if all my time in school with regular academic writing recaps for health research in kin stressed anything (other than to not plagiarize!), it was that I should never cite a primary source more than 10 years old when looking at health information. While sometimes an eleven-year-old source might be just fine, health information changes rapidly—make sure you haven’t stumbled across an article from 1932! (Unless you are, in fact, researching asthma history like John!). Filters are available on most search engines to help you sift through the decades of knowledge out there.
This post just scratches the surface of ensuring you are finding high quality information about your asthma, or other health queries. There is a lot of material out there, and not all of it is as valid as others, so it is important to take a moment to ensure what you’re reading is of good quality—like was written in Dia’s article, making medical choices is much different than searching Yelp or Foursquare for a good restaurant nearby: choose your information based on solid fact, not opinion, and you’ll be better off—and better educated—for it!