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Confused About What Health Information You Can Trust?

December 31, 2019
patient reading health info

Our Health Science Librarians Will Help You

A serious diagnosis is scary. Under stress like this, comprehension plummets. Often, we stop hearing what the doctor is saying, or we can't remember later what we were told.

Then it is very common to seek out information, usually by consulting "Dr. Google."

Anyone can publish anything on the internet. There is good, sound medical information online—and a lot of inaccurate, even dangerous, information.

How Do You Know What You Can Trust?

Baystate's Health Sciences Library, like most other medical school and hospital libraries, provides an "Ask a Librarian" service for its patients and community.

They can help you avoid the many websites that exploit and prey upon people who are desperate.

Health Science Librarians know how and where to find reliable health information and can connect you with resources that are the most useful and appropriate for you.

The Knowledge Navigation Experts to the Rescue

Our librarians can help answer general questions about diseases, drugs, laboratory tests, and treatments.

They use their advanced training to search the millions of webpages of health information, evaluating accuracy, timeliness, and trustworthiness.

The information they provide is safe, current, and from trusted resources.

An Informed Patient is an Empowered Patient

Health librarians don't give advice or make recommendations.

Their goal is to further your understanding of your diagnosis and treatment options by providing essential, noncontroversial background information.

With this foundational knowledge, you are better able to have productive discussions with your medical providers, and make informed personal health care decisions.

Ask a Librarian: It's Free and Confidential

Baystate's "Ask a Librarian" service has a convenient online form to submit questions. They can also help walk-ins and phone callers.

What Topics Can You Ask About?

Red Flags!

Beware of  websites with:

  1. Claims that are too good
    to be true, i.e. "miracle cure"
  2. Requests for payment or
    personal information
  3. Lots of ads, pop-ups, exclamation
    points! or ALL CAPS
  4. Personal stories or opinion,
    instead of research studies
  5. Spelling or grammatical errors,
    and many broken links

So, what SHOULD you look for?

Tips from the Experts

Most questioners ask about clinical concerns for themselves or family members, according to Ellen Brassil, MLA, Library & Knowledge Services Manager.

Last month alone, questions included:

  • How much does it cost to have a baby?
  • How are neuroendocrine tumors managed?
  • Do antidepressants have negative side effects?
  • What does the spleen do and where is it located?
  • Is shingles contagious?

What Kind of Response Will You Get?

Every inquiry is scrutinized by Brassil who adds, "If there is a whiff of urgency, I drop everything and ask if there is a clinical situation." If not urgent, you can expect a response within about a week.

Every response is reviewed, vetted, and formatted to be easily understood.

Then you will receive a customized information packet containing a:

  • Personal note with a strong encouragement to discuss the information with their provider
  • List of resources (with links)
  • Pamphlet geared for patients (if appropriate)
  • Community resources such as support groups or diagnosis-specific self management classes (if applicable)

See a sample "Ask a Librarian" information packet.

Ask-a-Librarian form

Open the form

Disclaimer
The “Ask a Librarian” service provides selected, background information related to your topic of interest. It does not include every and all potential information sources. The information provided does not substitute for the expert advice of a health care provider. It is important to consult your physician or other medical provider for information on a given condition, illness, test, medical procedure, set of discharge instructions, therapy or wellness information. Your health care provider is best able to offer advice on your unique situation.


More Information

Baystate Health Library for Patients and Families

Current, reliable health information to help support your decision-making.

MedlinePlus

High-quality, relevant health and wellness information that is trusted, easy to understand, and free of advertising, in both English and Spanish. A service of the National Library of Medicine, the world's largest medical library.

Top Health Websites

This list is produced by the Medical Library Association which regularly reviews health websites and organizes those that meet their quality standards by disease category.

Healthfinder.gov

Resources on a wide range of health topics selected from approximately 1,400 government and non-profit organizations to bring you the latest, most reliable health information.