Advance with MUSC Health

Finding Trustworthy Medical Advice Online

Jerry Reves, M.D.
February 23, 2023
Smiling woman using laptop

Got a medical question and want a quick answer? Hard to get an appointment with your doctor? Don’t worry: All you need is your trusty internet – but should you trust it? 

We live in a fast-food, immediate-gratification world, and when we want answers, we want them quickly. If you search for “medical advice online” in Google (another example of instant answers), you get more than 1 billion sites to go to for medical advice in 0.36 seconds! That’s a lot of help, so where do you start? 

What Health Sites are Out There? 

OK, there’s a lot of advice available, but we’re talking about your health or a question you may have about a family member or a friend. You don’t want bad information, and your chief question, as important as the original question, is where to get a trusted answer to your question. 

On Google, the search options at the top of your page have paid Google advertising fees and are so marked. That doesn’t make them untrustworthy; after all, advertising is the American way to influence consumers’ behavior. 

In fact, WebMD, which is at the top of Google’s answer for medical advice, is a reliable source of a wealth of medical content and advice. I went to the site on a Sunday morning at 8:47 a.m. and was informed that there were three doctors online waiting to answer my medical question. That is prompt service. 

Other services also have doctors at their keyboards waiting for questions from you. The doctors are unnamed, but star ratings of their service are provided. How can you go wrong if others rate these anonymous physicians with five stars? 

Many other sites have a variety of information that is based on symptoms or is specific to a disease. In other words, the sites will help you make your own diagnosis or give you information about a problem that you know or think you have. 

So, what should you do? 

How to Get Trustworthy Health Advice Online 

First, I suggest going to From there, click on the Patient and Visitors tab. Check out the Drop Down Menu and access our Health Llibrary, which is chockfull of trustworthy medical information, and our Advance with MUSC Health site, which features not only this column but articles showcasing the expertise of MUSC Health physicians and clinicians. If you’re looking for a doctor, click on the Find A Doctor tab, and if you want to find out more about the conditions we treat, click on the Medical Services tab. 

Where to Find Reliable Health Information and Stats Online 

Excellent information is also available at disease-specific sites, such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society or a host of other non-profit organizations that contain statistics and information. 

If you’re looking for detailed information with a more academic approach, you can access governmental sites. The National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health have marvelous resources online. The information on these sites is rigorous, authoritative and peer-reviewed by experts in the field. 

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has information on the most common medical diseases and offers treatment advice in a useful format that is generally respected. 

And lastly, there are thousands of home remedies, experimental and pure snake oil type of approaches to the medical problems you have. Charlatans are alive and well on the internet. Obviously, you can read and follow them at your peril. 

What is the Best Strategy When Seeking Online Medical Advice? 

There are several reputable sources of information that are user-friendly. The list below shares selected sites that are popular and useful. If clear and easy-to-understand information is what you desire, you can get a start on WEBMD, Mayo Clinic and Merck Manual for Consumers. 

For the more authoritative sites with complex information, I recommend the National Institutes of Health and the disease-specific organizations shown below. These sites offer search functions that allow you to type in the specific topic for which you’re seeking information. You will not get a doctor who will make a diagnosis. 

Relying on medical advice online from a practicing physician is a high-risk strategy, in my opinion. A medical diagnosis requires a thorough history, physical exam and usually some diagnostic testing. All this should be done by your primary care physician. 

Lastly, do not rely on advice, testimonials or products that are online for the profit of the sponsor and that have not been shown to be scientifically valid by medical research that has been published in a credible, scientific medical journal. 

The Bottom Line 

With a billion places to find medical advice and diagnosis, it’s tempting to rely on the internet. A lot of information that is essential and useful is available on the internet, but there’s no substitute for the face-to-face medical consultation required in evaluating symptoms and making a diagnosis. The online material is ideally used to supplement information from your physician. It is best to avoid a self-diagnosis based on the internet.

Selected Medical Advice Websites