How to Find Information Online: Health Information for Older People

If your typical search for health information consists of typing a topic into a search engine, you’re not alone. But you’re also not guaranteed quality results. The websites that top your search list may not be up-to-date or reliable. Next time, consider starting with sources you can trust.

  • MedlinePlus — Look up a condition or disease at MedlinePlus, and you’ll find a page organized to make it easy to find the information you’re looking for. Sponsored by the National Library of Medicine — part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — the website draws from the Library of Medicine, NIH, other government agencies, and health-related organizations. Other MedlinePlus features include a drug and supplement look-up, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, and current health news headlines and links.
  • Healthfinder.gov  — Another one-stop-shop for finding reliable health information online, Healthfinder.gov draws on more than 1,600 government and non-profit organizations to point you to current information. The site — a product of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — also offers consumer health guides, recent health news by topic, and a directory of health-related organizations.
  • HealthCare.gov — Provides information from over 4,000 private health plans offered by over 200 insurers, across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Insurance Finder tool will help you find the health insurance best suited to your needs, whether it's private insurance for individuals, families, and small businesses, or public programs that may work for you. The site — a product of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — is a one-stop-shop for information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as other health care resources. The website also connects consumers to quality rankings for local health care providers as well as preventive services.

When it comes to specific websites, the FTC suggests looking for:

  • Government websites. Sites ending in .gov, such as the websites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at cdc.gov, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at medicare.gov, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at fda.gov/consumer, National Cancer Institute at cancer.gov, National Institute on Aging at nia.nih.gov, and National Women’s Health Information Center at womenshealth.gov, are produced by agencies of the federal government and generally reflect the most recent research and information.
  • University or medical school websites, with web addresses ending in .edu,
    or sites for well-known, trusted health facilities.
  • Websites for not-for-profit groups that focus on research and teaching the public about specific diseases or conditions. These websites typically end in .org, but keep in mind that “.org” doesn’t guarantee a site is reputable. Scammers may set up bogus .org sites to rip off consumers.