Study Design. An Internet-based evaluation of Web sites using a validated assessment tool.
Objective. To evaluate the quality of information on scoliosis Web sites recommended by UK NHS consultants.
Summary of Background Data. One of the most common sources of inquiry on the Web is for the purposes of health-related information. The number of Web sites in the field of scoliosis has increased, yet the quality of information is reported to continue to be of poor quality. The 2 previous studies in this area identified Web sites for evaluation through the use of a single search term, “scoliosis,” on the 5 most popular search engines.
Methods. Seven Web sites were identified for inclusion in this study from the results of a survey of UK NHS consultants. These were independently evaluated by 3 reviewers using a validated information assessment tool, the DISCERN instrument. DISCERN scores were analyzed for correlation between reviewers. Web sites were also analyzed for the presence or absence of the quality assurance certification, Health On the Net code.
Results. Significant correlations between the DISCERN scores were found for reviewers 1 and 2 (τ = 0.878, P = 0.006) and reviewers 2 and 3 (τ = 0.732, P = 0.029). The highest mean cumulative score for all items achieved by any of the Web sites evaluated was 49 (maximum = 80, minimum = 15). Only one Web site was found to display the Health On the Net code.
Conclusion. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the content of Web sites that they recommend to patients. Web sites should be designed so the content suits patient needs. Web sites should be maintained such that content is up to date, evidence based, impartial, and written in plain language.
Level of Evidence: N/A