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Comprehensiveness, accuracy, quality, credibility and readability of online information about knee osteoarthritis
People are increasingly using the Internet to retrieve health information about chronic musculoskeletal conditions, yet content can be inaccurate and of variable quality.
To summarise (i) comprehensiveness, (ii) accuracy and clarity, iii) quality of information about treatment choices, (iv) credibility and (v) readability of online information about knee osteoarthritis.
Systematic appraisal of website content. Searches for “knee osteoarthritis” and “knee arthritis” were performed using Google and Bing (October 2020). The top 20 URLs of each search were screened for eligibility. Comprehensiveness, accuracy and clarity of content were matched against 14 pre-defined topic descriptors. DISCERN and HONcode were used to measure quality of information about treatment choices and website credibility, respectively. Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tests were used to assess readability.
Thirty-five websites were included. Websites were generally comprehensive (median, range = 12, 0–14/14) with descriptors available for 67% (n = 330/490) of topics across all websites, but only 35% (n = 116/330) were accurate and clear. Quality of information about treatment choices was generally low (median DISCERN score, range = 40, 16–56/80). Credibility descriptors were present for 65% (n = 181/280) of items, with 81% (n = 146/181) of descriptors being clear. Median Flesch reading ease was 53 (range = 21–74), and Flesch-Kincaid grade level was 8 (range = 5–11).
Few websites provide accurate and clear content aligned to key research evidence. Quality of information about treatment choices was poor, with large variation in comprehensiveness, credibility and readability.
Careful consideration is required by clinicians to identify what online information people with knee osteoarthritis have accessed and to address misinformed beliefs.