The Internet is an increasingly popular information resource for patients. Patients with chronic pain are a subsection of the community who are likely to seek information about their condition, but previously little was known about the quality of information they may encounter during an Internet search.
The aims of this study were to develop and validate a scoring system for assessing chronic pain websites and then use this to determine the quality of chronic pain information on the Internet, which a patient employing typical “surfer” behavior might encounter.
A scoring system for assessing chronic pain websites was designed and validated. It comprised quality (design features) and technical (information) accuracy scores. Validity was assessed by intraclass correlation coefficients. The search term “chronic pain” was used on 5 popular search engines to identify websites. Only the first 10 sites retrieved were scored.
There were 23 websites duplicated across the search engines, leaving a total of 27 websites to be scored. The majority of websites were rated as either poor or fair across the 2 individual scores and the grand score. Two websites had a grand score classified as either very good or excellent.
Although we cannot determine whether patients accurately interpret the quality of websites, our study confirms that good quality information about chronic pain is unlikely to be retrieved by our patients on the Internet.