The quality of information about sickle cell disease on the Internet for youth
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BACKGROUND: Adolescence is a vulnerable time for teens with sickle cell disease (SCD). Although there is evidence to support the use of web-based education to promote self-management skills in patients with chronic illnesses, the quality of SCD-related information on the Internet has not been assessed. PROCEDURE: A website review was conducted to appraise the quality, content, accuracy, readability, and desirability of online information for the adolescents with SCD. Relevant keywords were searched on the most popular search engines. Websites meeting predetermined criteria were reviewed. The quality of information was appraised using the validated DISCERN tool. Two physicians independently rated website completeness and accuracy. Readability of the sites was documented using the simple measure of gobbledygook (SMOG) scores and the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE). The website features considered desirable by youth were tracked. RESULTS: Search results yielded >600 websites with 25 unique hits meeting criteria. The overall quality of the information was "fair" and the average DISCERN rating score was 50.1 (±9.3, range 31.0-67.5). Only 12 of 25 (48%) websites had scores >50. The average completeness score was 20 of 29 (±5, range 12-27). No errors were identified. The mean SMOG score was 13.04 (±2.80, range 10.21-22.85) and the mean FRE score was 46.05 (±11.47; range 17.50-66.10), suggesting that the material was written well beyond the acceptable reading level for patient education. The websites were text-heavy and lacked the features that appeal to youth (chat, games, videos, etc.). CONCLUSION: Given the paucity of high-quality health information available for the teens with SCD, it is essential that additional online resources be developed.
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