Objective.— To evaluate the quality of websites providing cluster headache information for patients and healthcare providers.
Background.— The Internet has become an increasingly important source of healthcare information. However, limited data exist regarding the quality of websites providing headache information.
Methods.— This was a cross-sectional study conducted in February 2007. Websites providing cluster headache information were determined on the search engine MetaCrawler and classified as either patient oriented or healthcare provider oriented. The overall quality of each site was evaluated using a score system. Readability was evaluated using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Score (FKRS). Website quality was analyzed based on ownership, purpose, authorship, author qualifications, attribution, interactivity, and currency. The technical quality of the cluster headache information was analyzed based on content specific to cluster headache. The final ranking, based on the sum of the ranks of all 3 categories, was determined and then contrasted between the patient-oriented and healthcare professional-oriented websites using 2-sample t-tests.
Results.— Of the first 40 websites found on MetaCrawler, 72.5% were advertisements, unrelated to headache, or repeated websites. Although the standard US writing averages are at a seventh to eighth grade level, the mean FKRS of all sites was at a 12th grade level of difficulty, with no significant difference between the patient-oriented or healthcare provider-oriented websites (P = .54). Of a total possible 14 points, the overall mean quality component score was 9.9 for all sites; and of a total possible 23 points, the overall mean technical component score was 13.9. There was no significant difference for either the quality or technical component scores between patient-oriented or healthcare provider-oriented websites (P = .45 and P = .80, respectively).
Conclusion.— There are numerous cluster headache websites that can be found on the Internet. The quality of most of the websites dedicated to cluster headache is mediocre, and although there are some excellent cluster headache websites, these sites may be challenging for many users to locate. There was no significant difference in the overall quality of websites oriented for patients or healthcare providers providing cluster headache information evaluated in this study. In addition, websites providing high-quality cluster headache information are written at an educational level too high for a significant portion of the general population to fully utilize. Physicians should strongly consider providing lists of quality websites on cluster headache for their patients.