Partial nephrectomy online: a preliminary evaluation of the quality of health information on the Internet

Authors


Correspondence: James M. McKiernan, Department of Urology, Herbert Irving Pavilion, 11th Floor, 161 Fort Washington Avenue, New York, NY 10032, USA.

e-mail: jmm23@mail.cumc.columbia.edu

Abstract

Study Type – Therapy (evaluation of information materials)

Level of Evidence 3b

What's known on the subject? and What does the study add?

Patients are highly likely to access the Internet for health information, and studies have reported that inaccurate or low-quality information may alter patients’ expectations and negatively impact informed decision-making. In a unique collaboration with the Health On the Internet (HON) Foundation, we evaluated the top 20 search results for the urology search term ‘partial nephrectomy,’ and identified the highest and lowest scoring criteria to increase awareness of areas of concern and improvement.

Objective

  • To further evaluate the quality of information available on the Internet with regard to the management of localized renal cancer, we evaluated websites providing information on ‘partial nephrectomy’ in conjunction with the Health On the Internet (HON) Foundation. Many patients now utilize the Internet as a resource to provide further information on disease, treatments and outcomes, and health information on the Internet is largely unregulated. Inaccurate information may contribute to unrealistic expectations and dissatisfied patients.

Patients and Methods

  • A google.com search identified the top 30 websites for the search term ‘partial nephrectomy’.
  • The HON Foundation evaluated each website according to the eight principles for Health on the Internet code of conduct (HONcode) certification and reported the overall frequency of certification, as well as individual website compliance with each of the principles.

Results

  • Overall, seven (23.3%) of 30 websites met the requirements of HONcode certification and an additional two (6.7%) websites were under review to maintain their certification based on updating their resources.
  • The remaining 21 (70%) websites did not meet the standards for certification.
  • The lowest performing criteria included proper citation of medical information and a clear distinction of advertising from editorial content.

Conclusions

  • The low rate of HONcode compliance for these websites illustrates the poor quality of information that patients may encounter when researching options for nephron-sparing surgery, which may have a significant impact on patient decision-making and treatment choices.
  • Physicians should be aware of the quality of Internet resources and how to best use these tools to help guide patients to websites with valid information.

Ancillary