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Consumer health information on the WWW: an evaluation of information on verrucae

By Mairghread JH Ellis and Colin E Thomson


Background: Increasingly the World Wide Web (WWW) is used as a first source by individuals seeking health information, and it is actively promoted as an information source by the NHS.\ud \ud Objective: This study evaluated the accessibility and quality of WWW-based information about verrucae, a condition where podiatrists often encourage self-treatment.\ud \ud Method: Using the term “verruca” a variety of searches were undertaken. Outcome measures—\ud \ud • quality scores for information according to developed criteria;\ud • presence of the Health on the Net Foundation (HONcode logo), to indicate quality of website.\ud \ud Results: Twenty-three sites were evaluated. Overall, quality of information was low, due to lack of information, rather than inaccuracy. Consumer health websites returned the highest mean scores for information quality. Sites of academic/professional and commercial ownership contained a higher quality of information than privately owned, or NHS-owned. Three sites (13%) displayed the Health on the Net Foundation logo, indicating adherence to their ethical standards.\ud \ud Conclusions: Results suggest that while relevant information is available on the WWW, it is not always easy to locate. It is essential to use appropriate search terms, and to appraise every site. Healthcare practitioners may have a role to play in guiding consumers towards effective search strategies, thus ensuring safe, relevant information is accessed

Year: 2003
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