Educating patients to evaluate web-based health care information: theGATORapproach to healthy surfing

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Aims and objectives.Teaching patients to assess web resources effectively has become an important need in primary care. The acronym GATOR (genuine, accurate, trustworthy, origin and readability), an easily memorized strategy for assessing web-based health information, is presented in this paper.Background.Despite the fact that many patients consult the World-Wide Web (or Internet) daily to find information related to health concerns, a lack of experience, knowledge, or education may limit ability to accurately evaluate health-related sites and the information they contain. Health information on the Web is not subject to regulation, oversight, or mandatory updates and sites are often transient due to ever changing budget priorities. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for patients to develop a list of stable sites containing current, reliable information.Design.Commentary aimed at improving patient's use of web based health care information.Conclusions.The GATOR acronym is easy to remember and understand and may assist patients in making knowledgeable decisions as they traverse through the sometimes misleading and often overwhelming amount of health information on the Web.Relevance to clinical practice.The GATOR acronym provides a mechanism that can be used to structure frank discussion with patients and assist in health promotion through education. When properly educated about how to find and evaluate Web-based health information, patients may avoid negative consequences that result from trying unsafe recommendations drawn from untrustworthy sites. They may also be empowered to not only seek more information about their health conditions, treatment and available alternatives, but also to discuss their feelings, ideas and concerns with their healthcare providers.

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