Author(s): McLean T, Delbridge L
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The Internet is increasingly used as a source of health information by patients. Under these circumstances, the opportunity exists for Internet sites ostensibly providing patient information to act to promote surgical referrals based on exaggerated claims. This study aims to assess quantitatively and qualitatively the Internet-based consumer health information for minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP) techniques. METHODS: This is a prospective analysis of Internet web sites. Descriptive information about specific published claims on each of the web sites was documented and compared to the published evidence base. Web sites were then rated using a validated composite score (CS) tool and an MIP score tool developed specifically for the study. RESULTS: The search yielded 308 web sites, which, after assessment by the inclusion criteria left 44 unique web sites suitable for analysis. "Exaggerated," "misleading," or "false" claims were present in 27.3\% of the web sites analyzed. The false claims category had a high negative item-total correlation with the overall score, and accuracy was found to have a statistically significant (p < 0.05) negative correlation with quality. However, analysis performed for country of origin and the organization responsible for the web site found no significant difference. CONCLUSIONS: Web sites offering information in relation to MIP have a surprisingly high rate of claims that are not in accord with the evidence. Such claims may be posted to attract surgical referrals. It is difficult for consumers to differentiate quality consumer health web sites from poor ones as there are no hard and fast rules to differentiate them.
This article was published in World J Surg
and referenced in Journal of Vascular Medicine & Surgery