Quality of Internet Info on Sports Med Diagnoses Variable

Those with HONcode seal more likely to have high-quality content, financial transparency
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- The quality of content and financial transparency of Internet health information related to orthopedic sports medicine diagnoses is highly variable, but Web sites displaying the HONcode seal are significantly more likely to score higher in both of these areas, according to research published in the July 7 issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

James S. Starman, M.D., of the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., and colleagues conducted a review of 154 health information Web sites using custom templates to evaluate the information content for 10 common orthopedic sports medicine diagnoses. Measured outcomes were content scores as well as a score derived from the Health On the Net Foundation (HON) criteria, which assess the accountability and transparency of health information on the Web. A majority of these were commercial and academic sites; each site was evaluated by three reviewers.

The researchers found that, between the three reviewers, the average information content scores ranged from 54.8 to 56.8 out of 100 points. The average HON scores ranged from 8.5 to 9.8 out of 16 points. Web sites that had been awarded the HONcode seal by the Health On the Net Foundation had significantly higher HON scores and content scores than did those sites which did not have the HONcode seal. Nonprofit Web sites had both the highest HON and information content scores, news-related sites had the lowest information content scores, and personal sites had the lowest HON scores.

"It is our hope that by raising awareness of the poor overall quality and content of Internet information, better accountability may be achieved or, at least, that patients may become better informed that information on the Internet is not accurate or up to date and may be impacted by secondary misleading financial motivations from industry. Patients seeking health-related information on the Internet should be encouraged to exercise caution and to utilize only well-known sites and those that display the HONcode seal of compliance with transparency and accountability practices," the authors write.

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