Appropriate Antibiotic Use for Acute Otitis Media: What Consumers Find Using Web Searches

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The use of the Internet for health information is growing, but there is little control over the timeliness of updates or the accuracy of the information. Recent changes in recommendations for the treatment of acute otitis media were made in an effort to decrease the unnecessary use of antibiotics. We conducted a systematic review of Web sites to determine if consumers are likely to find appropriate information. Only 31 % of relevant Web sites found explain the new “watch and wait” recommendation, and 41% include a recommendation to finish the full course of prescribed antibiotics. Web sites that include an update date, are reviewed by a physician, provide references, and have a nonprofit-type domain are more likely to contain updated information. Physicians should be aware that their patients might visit the office with expectations based on outdated information found on the Web. Organizations making recommendations should consider how to disseminate new information through the Web.

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