Quality of Web-based Information for the 10 Most Common Fractures
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BACKGROUND: In today's technologically advanced world, 75% of patients have used Google to search for health information. As a result, health care professionals fear that patients may be misinformed. Currently, there is a paucity of data on the quality and readability of Web-based health information on fractures. OBJECTIVES: In this study, we assessed the quality and readability of Web-based health information related to the 10 most common fractures. METHODS: Using the Google search engine, we assessed websites from the first results page for the 10 most common fractures using lay search terms. Website quality was measured using the DISCERN instrument, which scores websites as very poor (15-22.5), poor (22.5-37.5), fair (37.5-52.5), good (52.5-67.5), or excellent (67.5-75). The presence of Health on the Net code (HONcode) certification was assessed for all websites. Website readability was measured using the Flesch Reading Ease Score (0-100), where 60-69 is ideal for the general public, and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL; -3.4 to ∞), where the mean FKGL of the US adult population is 8. RESULTS: Overall, website quality was "fair" for all fractures, with a mean (standard deviation) DISCERN score of 50.3 (5.8). The DISCERN score correlated positively with a higher website position on the search results page (r(2)=0.1, P=.002) and with HONcode certification (P=.007). The mean (standard deviation) Flesch Reading Ease Score and FKGL for all fractures were 62.2 (9.1) and 6.7 (1.6), respectively. CONCLUSION: The quality of Web-based health information on fracture care is fair, and its readability is appropriate for the general public. To obtain higher quality information, patients should select HONcode-certified websites. Furthermore, patients should select websites that are positioned higher on the results page because the Google ranking algorithms appear to rank the websites by quality.
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