Critical Analysis of the Quality, Readability, and Technical Aspects of Online Information Provided for Neck-Lifts

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Abstract

Importance

The number of patients using the internet to obtain health information is growing. This material is unregulated and heterogeneous and can influence patient decisions.

Objective

To compare the quality, readability, and technical aspects of online information about neck-lifts provided by private practice websites vs academic medical centers and reference sources.

Design, Setting, and Participants

In this cross-sectional analysis conducted between November 2015 and January 2016, a Google search of the term neck-lift was performed, and the first 45 websites were evaluated. The websites were categorized as private practice vs other. Private websites (PWs) included sites created by private practice physicians. Other websites (OWs) were created by academic medical centers or reference sources.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Quality, readability, and technical aspects of online websites related to neck-lifts. Quality was assessed using the DISCERN criteria and the Health on the Net principles (HONcode). Readability was assessed using 7 validated and widely used criteria. Consensus US reading grade level readability was provided by a website (readabilityformulas.com). Twelve technical aspects were evaluated based on criteria specified by medical website creators.

Results

Forty-five websites (8 OWs [18%] and 37 PWs [82%]) were analyzed. There was a significant difference in quality between OWs and PWs based on the DISCERN criteria and HONcode principles. The DISCERN overall mean (SD) scores were 2.3 (0.5) for OWs and 1.3 (0.3) for PWs (P < .001). Of a total possible score of 14 using the HONcode analysis, the mean (SD) was 8.6 (1.8) (range, 5-11) for OW, and the mean (SD) was 5.8 (1.7) (range, 2-9) for PW. The mean (SD) readability consensus reading grade level scores were 11.7 (1.9) for OWs and 10.6 (1.9) for PWs. Of a total possible score of 12, the mean (SD) technical scores were 6.3 (1.8) (range, 4-9) for OWs and 6.4 (1.5) (range, 3-9) for PWs.

Conclusions and Relevance

Compared with PWs, OWs had a significantly higher quality score based on both the DISCERN criteria and HONcode principles. The mean readability for OWs and PWs was grade 11 and grade 10, respectively, significantly higher than the grade 7 level recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Assessment of technical criteria demonstrated room for improvement in providing links to social media and blogs and reducing advertisements. Improving the quality and readability of online information may result in increased patient understanding, more active patient involvement, and ultimately better outcomes. Enhancing the technical aspects of websites may increase website traffic and patient volume.

Level of Evidence

NA.

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