Have you ever done an internet search to help explain a symptom? If you haven’t you probably live in an area without internet service. We ‘Google’, ask questions on social media, check out videos on Youtube and read reviews. Heaven forbid that you check out trucks for sale in Colorado Springs. You will be presented with trucks for the next month with every search that you do. Want to know what restaurants serve a good breakfast? Well here’s a truck you might like to take you there. The stakes are higher when it comes to our health. How do we filter through the noise to get the relevant information? In the end we want good information that empowers us so that we can make better decisions for our health. We also want to find the practitioners and businesses that are best suited to help us with our medical journey.


“That’s just your opinion”


“You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.” - Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY))


“We don’t share a common baseline of facts.”

Barrack Obama, 44thPresident


President Barrack Obama in an interview with David Letterman speaks to the problem of segregated information. That we can live in a “bubble of information” that is a product of the channels that we watch, the websites that we regularly go to and where we focus our time.


How Search works


Search is related to algorithms that reinforce whatever biases we have. This is your pattern of searching that develops over time. Our preferences are learned and tailored into the way we search. One of the ways that Google ranks pages is the number of back links to the page. If the search is fairly basic, like say back pain, then you will find the same web pages show up and these will be sites with a lot of back links to them like the Mayo Clinic. Once we try to get more specific, such as how to remove the anchors in the cargo area of your new Jeep, then it can be harder to find the right information.






Cookies are small bits of code that get inserted onto our hard drive from websites that we visit. Here is an example. I recently purchased a Jeep Wrangler, 2019 JL 4 door to be exact. Did you know that for 300 dollars, a wrench, and an hour of my time I can change my Jeep’s bumper? Now whenever I search anything related to cars some websites will only search my Jeep’s make and model. That is a positive use of cookies. It puts those products in front of me that I would potentially purchase. These cookies though can affect the function of other websites as well as guide how I search. Not to mention I am not too keen on a website inserting code on my computer without permission. Sadly my wife now gets advertising on Jeep parts as well.


Using Operators


Did you know that there are some easy ways to focus our keyword searches? These are called Operators. When you search by typing in freeform words your search engine is looking for those words in any order and in any part of that web page. Not necessarily together. When you add "quotations" around your keywords it will be more specific to these words together. When you add (brackets) then your search is looking for exactly the words as you wrote them.


Websites get higher priority if others are linking to them. This can be an issue if the site does not have good information but is popular. An example is the media explosion that happened with power posing. One of the lead researchers actually reversed her position on this controversial topic but this is not information that will readily show up at the top of your search. The TED Talk gets the high priority.


A lessen from Titus


A few weeks ago our pastor was speaking on the first chapter of Titus and how to filter information to know what is true.  He proposed three questions that are universal when filtering information. I have adapted them to assist us in our medical searches. When evaluating information here are three things to keep in mind.




3 Questions We Should Ask When Searching Online


Who wrote the article and who reviewed it?


Is it peer reviewed? Is it a reputable website?


Doe the information build upon current and past medical knowledge?


During our training in Physical Therapy when planning a research study we always started with a review of the medical literature. What did we know already and what was the next step? This saved us the embarrassment of putting a research proposal together on bad information or a poor foundation that would then be rejected by the research review board. (I saw this happen once and that team was definitely more prepared for their repeat review.) We stood on the shoulders of giants! If Einstein felt this way then that’s good enough for me.


“A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I received and am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein


Why does this information seem good to you? Is it too good to be true?


Does it make promises of a quick recovery? If it seems too good to be true it probably is. If you have had your problem for a year expect that treatment will take some time. Quick fixes sometimes happen but they are the exception and not the rule.


An exception to this in medicine is the failure to ask ‘why’ and not understanding the problem more fully prior to treatment. If your medical team has taken the time to find out what is wrong then treatment becomes clear. So often time is not taken or the clinician lacks the experience to treat a problem. It doesn’t matter what treatment you have if you do not have the right diagnosis to begin with.


It doesn’t matter what treatment you have if you do not have the right diagnosis to begin with.


In our practice at Cornerstone the consistent questions I hear every week are these; what do I have and what can I do for it? We have added two others; what can Cornerstone do to help you and how long will it take?


What do I have?

What can I do for it?


Answering these two questions alleviates the stress and anxiety of not knowing. It’s like an Alfred Hitchcock film. It was scary not knowing what the villain or monster looks like but once you can see it our fear is dissipated. Not knowing is scary.


Why we go negative


So…you wake up one morning and you feel a lump in the side of your neck. Just reading this sentence probably made some of our heart rates increase. Maybe we know someone that had a lump that turned out to be cancer. Our past experiences, and people that we are close to, help frame our perspective when presented with new information.


Go Positive!


How can we rewire our perspective? Here is a TED Talk from Harvard graduate and Psychologist Shawn Achor with many years of experience in this field. He gives us some tips on reshaping our wiring.





  • See what information pulls up when using different search engines.



  • Use “quotes” and (brackets)


  • Get rid of the cookies! Do a private search to eliminate the biases developed by previous searches. You can also block cookies in your browser.


  • Trust your Medical Team


For more on how to pick a medical team that you trust check out this link.



Things To Look Out For


The Self-Proclaimed Expert




Be careful of the self-proclaimed expert. I am the Google Doctor for search or the Headache Doctor for headaches. You are an expert when others say that you are. Look for relevant experience related to your problem. Even better is a team of professionals that truly work together.


Other forms of advertising that are not what they seem are magazines and websites that advertise the top doctor or dentist but require payment for this. The more you pay the more space you get or the higher the position in your search.


Practicing Medicine




Experience matters. There is a joke that doctors ‘practice’ medicine. The practice of medicine is just that, experience through treating many patients and continued growth and learning from our medical peers. There is a big difference between the doctor that has been practicing for a few years and one that has over 20 years of experience. 


Advertising Works




Be careful if you see a lot of advertising. I rarely click on ads and when I do I am usually disappointed that I wasted the time. (Unless it’s for my Jeep!) If you see a lot of ads for a company or a product, this is an inefficient, non-optimized campaign. The more money that is being spent on advertising means less is going to your care.



By the way, Google did not like my search about heart surgery. It changed it for me. I did not get any step-by-step instructions on how to perform heart surgery on a buddy let alone myself. The search gave me links to the Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Health and other reputable research and hospital sites.


For more on how to filter online information and websites check out the National Institutes of Health as a great resource!


Finding and Evaluating Online Resources