• Assessing Online Information on Diabetic Retinopathy

    By Lynda Seminara
    Selected and Reviewed By: Neil M. Bressler, MD, and Deputy Editors

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, November 2019

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    Kloosterboer et al. took a close look at various websites that contain patient information on diabetic retinopathy (DR) and found that the content was generally poor in quality, difficult to interpret, and not suitable to help pa­tients make sound medical decisions.

    For their study, the authors devel­oped a 26-item survey that addressed questions of relevance to patients and applied it to 11 websites with DR content to assess accuracy and completeness of freely available material. Included were news sites, WebMD, All About Vision, EyeWiki, Mayo Clinic, and national ophthalmic associations and societies. Readability was analyzed with an online tool, and each website was evaluated in­dependently by a vitreoretinal surgeon and two vitreoretinal fellows. JAMA benchmarks were used to determine the quality of each site’s content.

    The mean (standard deviation [SD]) questionnaire score among the 11 sites was 55.76 (13.38) of 104 possible points. The quality of content varied among the sites (H = 25.811, p = .004). The mean (SD) reading grade for all websites was 11.30 (1.79), which equates to the 11th-grade reading level; however, 6th grade is the level recom­mended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. WebMD was found to have the lowest degree of complexity. There was no correla­tion between content accuracy and the mean reading grade or the Google rank. No website achieved all four JAMA benchmarks, and only one site achieved three of the four. Four sites did not meet any JAMA benchmarks. No correlation was found between con­tent accuracy and the number of JAMA benchmarks achieved. Reproducibility was similar among the three observers.

    Given the uneven accuracy of online DR information, the authors emphasized the importance of directing patients to reliable sources. (See also related commentary by Rahul N. Khurana, MD, in the same issue.)

    The original article can be found here.