How Good Are Health Articles?

Most people tend to appreciate that the internet carries a wide range of health article and related material, and most people would probably accept that some of this material is of a highly dubious quality.

The paradox of the internet is that anyone can access virtually any type of information about anything, and at the same time that anyone can produce any piece of information about anything.

Given the nature of health and people’s concerns and desire for information, trying to assess how reliable and good the health article is can be in fact very difficult. Anyone can write anything about any health-related issue, and publish it on-line with virtually no criticism or sanction or need to prove or verify any type of source.

Although in theory people can differentiate between different types of written material, it is also true that anything in print carries with it a degree of authority simply by virtue of it being print. This has always been acknowledged about books, newspapers and magazines, and is also true to a large extent about health articles on-line.

Health articles that are written in newspapers and magazines often appear to have a greater degree of authority by virtue of the quality of the newspaper or magazine they appear in. It is not necessarily the case, as a lot of newspapers or magazines will sensationalize a whole range of health related issues in order to gain readership and/or advertising revenue.

Trying to find out good quality health information about any specific issue can be a difficult process. It is often complicated by the fact that the individual looking for such information may have time restraints or other conditions that affect the nature of their search. It is quite likely that an individual will suddenly become aware of a health-related issue, and start looking for related articles or topics on-line to try and verify or validate their own knowledge.

There are a couple of guidelines about how to find an rely on good quality health articles on-line. It is possible to access a number of medical journals, or at least extracts from a number of medical journals that should carry quite a high degree of authority as they will be peer-reviewed. Some of them will be highly technical, but they will at least point to where good research has been done, and work as an indicator of where to go next.

If anyone is looking for information on a particular topic regarding health, one of the best places to go to is a discussion forum related to people who have experienced or are experiencing such a condition. If you want information about any particular condition, a good place to start is to talk to an individual who has such a condition. Obviously their views are going to be subjective, but someone who has a lived sense of an illness will be able to give individual many pointers. A discussion forum which retains a high degree of anonymity will help do that.

The other place to go for health-related articles on health are websites of associations or organisations of people who have a specific condition or illness. They take the value of a discussion forum one stage further, by combining the collective experience and insights of a number of people who have any type of condition or illness, along with the most recent research and good practice that exists that relates to that condition or illness.

There is an important caveat that any health article read on-line, or in any newspaper or magazine written by anyone should be assessed with a degree of caution. Certainly before acting on any advice contained within such an article independent verification of its merits should be sought.

Healthcare and Prior Authorization

The term prior authorisation has a specific meaning within the concept of health care and health insurance, and has a fundamental effect on virtually all of the procedures and clinical assessments that an individual is likely to come up against in the context of their health insurance policy.

Health insurance differs from other types of insurance policies in a number of ways, but in the context of the term prior authorisation there is a fundamental difference that has to be appreciated. In most other types of insurance, an event or catastrophe occurs, and as long as such event is covered under the terms of the insurance policy, then the insurance company is liable to pay subject to terms and conditions etc. There is an implicit contract between the individual and insurance company, where the individual pays the company some money, and the company pays the individual money if and when an event that is insured against happens.

Health insurance is different. An individual pays the insurance company a premium, and if the individual requires any type of assessment, test or clinical procedure, they essentially have to have the approval of the insurance company before such tests or procedures are carried out.

The scenario can differ widely, depending upon the type of health insurance plan or policy that the individual has, but essentially it runs like this.

The individual will approach their primary care physicians, and together they will talk through whatever the issue or concern may be about the individual’s health. The primary care physician and individual may well have a number of ideas about how to proceed and what is involved.

However, before any actual test or procedure can be carried out the approval of the insurance company has to be sought. It is the insurance company that will determine whether or not they believe any test or procedure to be medically necessary, and if they do they will give prior authorisation to such test or procedure been carried out. If they do not believe it to be medically necessary then they are likely to decline the test or procedure, meaning that the individual will either have to pay for it themselves or cannot carry through their desired course of treatment.

As said earlier that are a wide range of scenarios where this applies, and there are often dramatic and highly intense debates, arguments, lawsuits etc about whether or not the insurance company is justified in agreeing or withholding a particular course of treatment. There is no easy answer to this, as insurers reserve the right to effectively decide or decline a particular course of treatment. From their point of view this is crucial in containing costs, and keeping some type of control over their claims expenditure. From an individual’s point of view it can be incredibly disheartening where a course of treatment is agreed between a physician and an individual, only for the insurance company to deny it on the grounds of it not being medically necessary. What becomes increasingly important in the context of prior authorisation is for the individual to be fully aware of what their rights are in terms of complaints procedures. The insurance company themselves should have very clear and specific guidelines as to how to appeal any decision, including specified limits as to how long such the process should take. In addition there may well be local or national legislation that gives the individual specific consumer rights that allows them to challenge decisions that may well affect their life, or quality of life.