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Where to find accurate online health information

Chatbots, social media, and websites can give you inaccurate information

Before using any information to change how you care for your skin, hair, or nails, discuss the information with your board-certified dermatologist.

Young bearded man sitting at laptop and talking with dermatologist about health information he found online.

For years, people have been searching for health information online and sharing health advice on social media. Thanks to chatbots like ChatGPT, we can now ask a question and get an instant answer.

Here's what you should know about relying on online medical information:

Chatbots may provide inaccurate information

“Chatbots pull information from many databases, and some of these databases contain inaccurate information,” says board-certified dermatologist Justin Ko, MD, FAAD, who is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology’s Augmented Intelligence Committee.

It's also important to know that chatbots like ChatGPT keep the information that you give them. If you include personal medical information like a diagnosis or treatment plan when you use a chatbot, your medical information becomes data that the chatbot can use and show to others. For this reason, it’s important to not share your medical information with chatbots.

No online information, even if it is accurate and trustworthy, can replace the expertise of your board-certified dermatologist.

Social media offers a wealth of health information, but some of it can be misinformation

As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical misinformation can spread like wildfire on social media and online forums. People who post responsibly take actions to counteract misinformation and provide their followers with high-quality, science-backed health information.

Here’s what you can do to find responsible, science-backed sources for health information:

  • Set your preferences so that you follow people and organizations known for providing accurate, trustworthy medical information like board-certified dermatologists, world-renown hospitals and clinics, and organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology.

  • Understand that well-meaning posts from family, friends, and colleagues can contain health information that isn’t accurate or doesn’t apply to your health.

Many websites provide reliable health information, but some don’t

“Choosing trustworthy websites is an important step in gathering reliable health information,” according to the National Institutes of Aging (NIA). Here are tips that can help you identify reliable websites:

6 ways to identify a reliable website

  1. Make sure the website was created by a trusted organization like a government agency, medical association, hospital, or university.

  2. Disregard a website that promises a single remedy to cure a medical condition.

  3. Ask yourself if the purpose of the site is to inform or to sell. The goal of any trustworthy health information website is to provide accurate, current, and useful information rather than try to sell you something.

  4. Look for one of the following: 1) References on the page, which tell you the sources for the information, or 2) Information that tells you the source is an expert on the subject like a board-certified dermatologist. Trustworthy websites tell you where the information comes from.

  5. Check for contact information that you can use to reach the site owner. Trustworthy sites include this information, which may be an email address, phone number, or mailing address. You’ll often find this information on a page called “About Us” or “Contact Us.”

  6. See if the site has a privacy policy. Trustworthy sites include this information. It may be called “Privacy Policy,” “Legal Notice,” such as the one on this website, or “Our Policies.”


Finding trustworthy online information can help you have more informed talks with your dermatologist. Before using any information to change how you care for your skin, talk with your dermatologist. No one understands your skin better than a board-certified dermatologist.

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American Academy of Dermatology. Augmented Intelligence Series:

  • “Intro to augmented intelligence and where we are now.” Justin Ko, MD, MBA, FAAD and Roxana Daneshjou, MD, PhD, FAAD (interviewed by Jules Lipoff, MD, FAAD). Dialogues in Dermatology. Released 4/6/2023.

  • “Augmenting our workforce and empowering patients.” Roberto Novoa, MD, FAAD and Jenna Lester, MD, FAAD (interviewed by Adewole Adamson, MD, MPP, FAAD). Dialogues in Dermatology. Released 4/6/2023.

  • “Toward trustworthy augmented intelligence.” Veronica Rotemberg, MD, FAAD and Ivy Lee, MD, FAAD (interviewed by Jules Lipoff, MD, FAAD). Dialogues in Dermatology. Released 4/6/2023.

Asch DA, “An interview with ChatGPT about health care.” NEJM Catalyst. 4/4/2023.

Lancet Digital Health. “ChatGPT: friend or foe?” Lancet Digit Health. 2023 Mar;5(3):e102.

Lee P, Bubeck S, et al. “Benefits, limits, and risks of GPT-4 as an AI chatbot for medicine. N Engl J Med. 2023 Mar 30;388(13):1233-9.

National Institutes of Aging. “How to find reliable health information online.” Last updated 1/23/2023. Last accessed 4/27/2023.

Written by:
Paula Ludmann, MS

Reviewed by:
Hassan I. Galadari, MD, FAAD
Mona Gohara, MD, FAAD
Roopal Kundu, MD, FAAD
Ivy Lee, MD, FAAD
Jennifer G. Powers, MD, FAAD
Sanna Ronkainen, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 6/22/23