If you notice an itchy rash, a suspicious mole, or any other dermatology problem, your first instinct may be to turn to the internet. This is certainly understandable. Technology has made our lives more convenient, and we now have instant access to a literal world of information. It’s tempting to do a quick search of your dermatology symptoms and click on the first link that pops up.
It’s very likely that link will point to WebMD, a popular medical website. WebMD offers articles on the latest health trends, information about diet fads, and even a symptom checker. The site may seem like a one-stop shop for all your dermatology questions. However, consulting WebMD and relying on them for dermatology or other medical concerns is a terrible idea for the reasons outlined below.
Run for Profit
WebMD doesn’t provide information out of the goodness of their hearts. The website is run for profit. This profit is primarily generated through advertisements. That’s not such a big deal, though—you can always use ad blocker software, right? However, it’s not the annoyance of the advertisements you should be concerned about.
Ads are a problem because they make WebMD beholden to their advertisers and degrade the objectivity of their articles. Say you look up a dermatology article on fungal infections, and one of WebMD’s advertisers is an antifungal cream manufacturer. WebMD has an incentive to recommend that manufacturer’s cream in their article, even if it’s not necessarily the best dermatology choice.
Furthermore, most advertisements pay out to their host site by the number of clicks or visitors. This means that the more traffic WebMD drives to its site, the more money they make. This is the reason you’ll see popular “talk show” type buzz articles on the WebMD home page featuring the latest outrageous diets or highly questionable dermatology home remedies.
A 2011 article in The New York Times also expressed concern about WebMD’s connections to pharmaceutical companies. The writer maintained that these partnerships lead the site to push visitors towards specific medications that may not be necessary for their condition.
So what are good alternatives to WebMD? The best choice is always your own dermatologist at Front Range Dermatology Associates in Fort Collins. They’re invested in your skin’s health and will always be certain to offer the best dermatology advice based on their training and experience. If you’d like to read up on dermatology conditions on your own, other good dermatology websites include government sites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and non-profit medical centers such as the Mayo Clinic.
You should also note that the majority of WebMD’s popular dermatology health articles are not based on original research and do not qualify as primary sources. Rather, WebMD functions like an aggregate news site, re-reporting health news from other websites. This creates the opportunity for facts and conclusions to become distorted in the retelling, either through inadvertent error or deliberate spin.
You may notice a byline with something like “medically reviewed by John Doe, MD” at the end of some articles on the site. WebMD adds this to promote trust in their information. But what does “medically reviewed” mean? Did a doctor read the article and was paid to agree with it? Did they simply skim it? This is never defined. Additionally, not all articles on the site carry this endorsement.
Terms and Conditions
Perhaps the best example of WebMD’s unreliability is a segment from their Terms and Conditions – “The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment… Always seek the advice of your physician…. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the WebMD Site!” This makes it clear that WebMD should never be your first or only source of information.
For expert dermatology advice, choose the experienced dermatology professionals at Front Range Dermatology in Fort Collins, CO. After all, consulting WebMD, nor any other website, can never substitute for the human factor.