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Tips for Finding Reliable Information on the Internet

While freedom of information creates valuable access for consumers, there are many sites that abuse this freedom and post false and inaccurate information, according to Dr. John Renner, chief medical officer of HealthSCOUT and director of the National Council for Reliable Health Information.

"Many of the sites might look good," Renner commented, "but so goes a mirage in the desert. You have to know how to navigate around the quackery and questionable claims of cures."

Renner offers the following five key criteria for evaluating Web sites:

High technical quality: There are appropriate graphics; internal searches are available; no special browser is needed.

Quality Content: Information is accurate, timely, and non-biased.

Credible sources: No unsubstantiated claims are made; basic science logic is sound; it doesn't tell consumers to distrust all doctors.

Usefulness for all audiences: Patients will be better able to ask physicians questions; Information is useful for the physician, as well as the patient; information helps satisfy economic, political, public health or policy questions.

Linkages to other Web pages are handled well: Links are accurate, active, organized and not overly commercial.

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