Quality and readability of online resources regarding shoulder osteoarthritis

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Abstract

Background:

Education through internet searches is becoming more commonplace as patients look to become more involved in the medical decision-making process. Studies have shown poor quality and readability of online discussion of several orthopaedic conditions. The goal of this study was to evaluate the quality of online information available for arthritis of the shoulder.

Methods:

Three search engines were used to identify three common terms signifying shoulder osteoarthritis: “shoulder arthritis,” “glenohumeral arthritis,” and “shoulder joint disease.” The top resulting websites were collected, repeats were eliminated, and the resulting sites were evaluated. Four shoulder and elbow fellows evaluated each using a quality scoring system. The websites were also graded on readability using the Flesch-Kincaid system.

Results:

Forty-five unique websites were evaluated for quality and readability. The average quality of websites scored was 12.33±4.11 out of 25 with no significant difference due to search term or author. When scored for accuracy, “shoulder arthritis” was significantly lower than “glenohumeral arthritis” or “shoulder joint disease.” Flesh-Kincaid (FK) analysis revealed that zero studies were below an 8th grade reading level and overall mean FK score was 11.32±2.66 (range, 8.2 to 18.2).

Conclusions:

This study found that there is a consistently low quality of web-based information available to patients in regards to glenohumeral arthritis of the shoulder. Additionally, this information is presented in a way that is above the average reading level of the Unites States population. It is important that orthopaedic surgeons help to improve web-based material and provide this information to patients.

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