Orthopaedic Patient Information on the World Wide Web: An Essential Review

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Abstract

Background:

Patients increasingly use the Internet to research health-related issues. Internet content, unlike other forms of media, is not regulated. Although information accessed online can impact patients’ opinions and expectations, there is limited information about the quality or readability of online orthopaedic information.

Methods:

PubMed, MEDLINE, and Google Scholar were searched using anatomic descriptors and three title keywords (“Internet,” “web,” and “online”). Articles examining online orthopaedic information from January 1, 2000, until April 1, 2015, were recorded. Articles were assessed for the number of reviewers evaluating the online material, whether the article examined for a link between authorship and quality, and the use of recognized quality and readability assessment tools. To facilitate a contemporary discussion, only publications since January 1, 2010, were considered for analysis.

Results:

A total of thirty-eight peer-reviewed articles published since 2010 examining the quality and/or readability of online orthopaedic information were reviewed. For information quality, there was marked variation in the quality assessment methods utilized, the number of reviewers, and the manner of reporting. To date, the majority of examined information is of poor quality. Studies examining readability have focused on pages produced by professional orthopaedic societies.

Conclusions:

The quality and readability of online orthopaedic information are generally poor.

Clinical Relevance:

For modern practices to adapt to the Internet and to prevent misinformation, the orthopaedic community should develop high-quality, readable online patient information.

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