Is That Healthcare Website Making You Sick? - InformationWeek

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Healthcare // Patient Tools
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3/28/2012
12:40 PM
Paul Cerrato
Paul Cerrato
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Is That Healthcare Website Making You Sick?

Many healthcare websites provide valuable information that can help prepare you for the next doctor's visit. But some serve up misinformation that just might land you in the hospital. Here's how to tell the difference.
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A healthy dose of skepticism is in order if you decide to work your way through cancertutor.com. An article by R. Webster Kehr of the Independent Cancer Research Foundation, Inc. claims a natural approach to cancer can cure more than 90% of patients, while more traditional cancer treatment has been shown to cure only 3%. Why the huge difference? In Kehr's view, it's because treating "patients safely with natural products would dramatically reduce the profits of the medical community and the pharmaceutical industry."

Like many other health-related websites, Kehr's site stresses distrust of the medical establishment, patient testimonials, and statistics from individual doctors. Patient testimonials can be persuasive, but they are tough to judge for honesty. Similarly, these statistics, like any medical statistics, need some scrutiny. For example, of the 90% of patients who claim they were cured by a natural remedy, how many were followed up a year later to see if they relapsed? How many may have felt better but never had the necessary X-rays or CT tests to prove their tumors had shrunk? How can you be sure that patients whose tumors actually did shrink were experiencing the benefits of the treatment and not some other developments in their lives? For example, did the person move from a house near a toxic dump to a safer environment? Did the person give up smoking? Factors and variables like these are rarely mentioned when unconventional practitioners discuss "survival" stats.

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