Medical content has a reputation that clinical is credible; if it is inspirational, empathetic, or interesting, it can’t be accurate. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Medical content doesn’t have to be boring to be accurate. It doesn’t have to be soulless to be authoritative. And it doesn’t have to be alarmist, ever.
Some health publishers (Verywell included) are making it core to their mission to be a source of hope and reassurance—sometimes, a headache is just a headache. This doesn’t mean that serious topics or prognoses are avoided. Rather, they’re approached from a place of empathy. When publishers use empathy as a foundation to facilitate the learning process and make information more accessible, readers feel better and more confident in the actions they should—or shouldn’t—take.
The fact is empathy and accuracy are not mutually exclusive. Readers and marketers should expect both. Here are six tips to make sure health information is accurate, accessible, and worthy of your trust and time, regardless of where you read it:
1. Author Expertise and Physician Review: Is the author a doctor or an otherwise appropriate medical professional? If not, was the article medically reviewed by a board-certified physician? This information should be front and center in each article. The reader shouldn’t have to search for it.
2. Content Enhancements: Is the publisher making a point of presenting information in a clear, digestible way? Look for content blocks that call out a particularly important fact or warning, illustrations and video that help detail a confusing concept, or other visuals that help distill medical information into layman’s terms.
3. Freshness: How old is the article you are reading? Better yet, when was it last updated? In this respect, all topics are not created equal. For example, cancer content should be updated more frequently than yoga content. But in general, even lighter topics should be kept up to date and enhanced frequently.
4. Sourcing: Is the author referring directly to reputable medical journals and studies to support any claims that are made in the article? Even when articles are meant for a consumer audience, citations to other authoritative sources are a positive indicator of credibility.
5. Advertisement vs. Editorial: If an advertiser has any influence over the substance of the content, that relationship needs to be clearly indicated. Further, excessive or aggressive advertising on any given page, even if disclosed, should lead to questions about the publisher’s motivations.
6. Certifications: There are several third-party certifications that can signify the credibility of a health publication. Health on the Net (assesses editorial processes and integrity) and TrustE (evaluates privacy) are two important certifications that demonstrate trustworthiness.