Google searches are a poor-quality source of information for erectile dysfunction treatment
Trent Pattenden1, Rachael Raleigh2, Isaac Thangasamy1.
1Urology Department, Ipswich Hospital, Ipswich, Australia; 2Pharmacy Department, Gold Coast Health Service, Gold Coast, Australia
Introduction: Patients often use the internet to find medical information. This study aimed to determine the quality and readability of online information on erectile dysfunction treatments (EDT).
Methods: A Google search for “erectile dysfunction treatment” was performed. Typographic and treatment information within sites was recorded. Readability was measured with 4 validated items: Fleisch-Kincaid Grade, Gunning-Fog, Coleman-Liau, and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook. Quality was measured using 3 validated items: HON certification, JAMA criteria and the DISCERN instrument.
Results: 81 websites were included. Most were produced by urologists and hospitals, with 15 (18.5%) each (Figure 1). Specific information on EDT was found on 74 (91.4%) sites, with phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor therapy most frequent (n=55, 67.9%) (Figure 2). The mean readability score was 12.32 (SD 1.91, 95%CI 11.90–12.74), equivalent to a year 12 level. Resources were poor quality with a median total DISCERN score 35 (IQR 26-44.5) out of 80. There was a small, significant negative correlation between Google rank and total DISCERN score (τ= -.160, p=.036). HON certified sites had significantly higher total DISCERN scores; median 44 (IQR 25-59.75) vs 32.5 (IQR 25.13-42.38) (U=832.5, p<.001). A linear regression was used to predict DISCERN score from JAMA criteria, R2=0.374 (adjusted R2=0.340), F(4, 76)=11.370, p<.001. The effects of meeting the attribution and currency criteria were significant; β11.160 and β 9.753.
Conclusions: On average, websites on EDT required a twelfth grade readability level, and provided poor quality information. Health professionals should assess their websites readability and quality using validated instruments prior to publication, to improve resource quality. HON certification and meeting the JAMA criteria for attribution and currency were significant predictors for higher quality websites. Educating patients about these markers may improve identification of quality resources.
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