New York Times writer John Schwartz writes about the current state of online communities for people who are conferring about their own medical conditions. Things have gotten a lot more advanced than the usual “Googling about symptoms” that I occasionally engage in.

Here are some hard numbers on the quality of information that’s available:

Can online information be trusted? The answer, increasingly, is yes. In a study earlier this year, a report in the journal Cancer looked at 343 Web pages about breast cancer that came up in online searches. The researchers found 41 inaccurate statements on 18 sites — an error rate of 5.2 percent. Sites promoting alternative medicine were 15 times as likely to offer false or misleading health information as those sites that promoted conventional medicine, the study found.