Evaluation of the Quality, Accuracy, and Readability of Online Patient Resources for the Management of Articular Cartilage Defects

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Abstract

Objective

Patients commonly use the Internet to obtain their health-related information. The purpose of this study was to investigate the quality, accuracy, and readability of online patient resources for the management of articular cartilage defects.

Design

Three search terms (“cartilage defect,” “cartilage damage,” “cartilage injury”) were entered into 3 Internet search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo). The first 25 websites from each search were collected and reviewed. The quality and accuracy of online information were independently evaluated by 3 reviewers using predetermined scoring criteria. The readability was evaluated using the Flesch-Kincaid (FK) grade score.

Results

Fifty-three unique websites were evaluated. Quality ratings were significantly higher in websites with a FK score >11 compared to those with a score of ≤11 (P = 0.021). Only 10 websites (19%) differentiated between focal cartilage defects and diffuse osteoarthritis. Of these, 7 (70%) were elicited using the search term “cartilage defect” (P = 0.038). The average accuracy of the websites was high (11.7 out of maximum 12), and the average FK grade level (13.4) was several grades higher than the recommended level for readable patient education material (eighth grade level).

Conclusions

The quality and readability of online patient resources for articular cartilage defects favor those with a higher level of education. Additionally, the majority of these websites do not distinguish between focal chondral defects and diffuse osteoarthritis, which can fail to provide appropriate patient education and guidance for available treatment. Clinicians should help guide patients toward high-quality, accurate, and readable online patient education material.

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