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An Evaluation of Web Sites Recommended by UK NHS Consultants to Patients With Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis at the First Point of Diagnosis

Wellburn, Shaun BSc(Hons); Bettany-Saltikov, Josette PhD; van Schaik, Paul PhD

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31829965bc
Health Services Research

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

Three reviewers independently evaluated Web sites, recommended to idiopathic scoliosis patients by consultants, using the DISCERN instrument. The level of reliability of the Web sites as a source of information was found to be poor. Health professionals should be aware of the content of Web sites they recommend to patients.

From the Teesside University, Tees Valley, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Shaun Wellburn, BSc(Hons), Parkside Offices West, Teesside University, Middlesbrough TS1 3BA, United Kingdom; E-mail:

Acknowledgment date: January 21, 2013. First revision date: March 27, 2013. Acceptance date: April 27, 2013.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work.

No relevant financial activities outside the submitted work.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins