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Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 9, pp 1884–1891 | Cite as

Can Patients Trust Online Health Information? A Meta-narrative Systematic Review Addressing the Quality of Health Information on the Internet

  • Lubna DarazEmail author
  • Allison S. Morrow
  • Oscar J. Ponce
  • Bradley Beuschel
  • Magdoleen H. Farah
  • Abdulrahman Katabi
  • Mouaz Alsawas
  • Abdul M. Majzoub
  • Raed Benkhadra
  • Mohamed O. Seisa
  • Jingyi (Francess) Ding
  • Larry Prokop
  • M. Hassan Murad
Review Paper

Abstract

Background

The Internet has become a leading source of health information accessed by patients and the general public. It is crucial that this information is reliable and accurate.

Objectives

The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the overall quality of online health information targeting patients and the general public.

Methods

The systematic review is based on a pre-established protocol and is reported according to the PRISMA statement. Eleven databases and Internet searches were performed for relevant studies. Descriptive statistics were used to synthesize data. The NIH Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies was used to assess the methodological quality of the included studies.

Results

Out of 3393 references, we included 153 cross-sectional studies evaluating 11,785 websites using 14 quality assessment tools. The quality level varied across scales. Using DISCERN, none of the websites received a category of excellent in quality, 37–79% were rated as good, and the rest were rated as poor quality. Only 18% of websites were HON Code certified. Quality varied by affiliation (governmental was higher than academic, which was higher than other media sources) and by health specialty (likely higher in internal medicine and anesthesiology).

Conclusion

This comprehensive systematic review demonstrated suboptimal quality of online health information. Therefore, the Internet at the present time does not provide reliable health information for laypersons. The quality of online health information requires significant improvement which should be a mandate for policymakers and private and public organizations.

KEY WORDS

quality online health information systematic review Internet patient education health literacy 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11606_2019_5109_MOESM1_ESM.docx (447 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 447 kb)

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lubna Daraz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allison S. Morrow
    • 1
  • Oscar J. Ponce
    • 1
  • Bradley Beuschel
    • 1
  • Magdoleen H. Farah
    • 1
  • Abdulrahman Katabi
    • 1
  • Mouaz Alsawas
    • 1
  • Abdul M. Majzoub
    • 1
  • Raed Benkhadra
    • 2
  • Mohamed O. Seisa
    • 1
  • Jingyi (Francess) Ding
    • 1
  • Larry Prokop
    • 3
  • M. Hassan Murad
    • 1
  1. 1.Mayo Clinic Evidence-based Practice Research Program, Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Division of Health Care Policy and Research, Department of Health Sciences Research Mayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Allegheny General HospitalPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Mayo Clinic LibrariesMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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