Separating the Wheat From the Chaff: An Evaluation of Readability, Quality, and Accuracy of Online Health Information for Treatment of Peyronie's Disease

To characterize available information about Peyronie's disease online and evaluate its readability, quality, accuracy, and respective associations with HONcode certification and website category.

The search term "Peyronie's disease" was queried on three major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) and the first 50 search results on each search engine were assessed.

All websites were categorized as institutional/reference, commercial, charitable, personal/patient support, or alternative medicine, and cross-referenced with the Health on the Net (HON) Foundation. Websites that met inclusion criteria were analyzed for readability using three validated algorithms, for quality using the DISCERN instrument, and for accuracy by a fellowship-trained urologist.

On average, online health information about the treatment of Peyronie's disease is written at or above the 11th grade level, exceeding the current reading guidelines of 6th-8th grade. The mean total DISCERN score for all website categories was 50.44 (SD 11.94), the upper range of "fair" quality. The mean accuracy score of all online Peyronie's treatment information was 2.76 (SD 1.23), corresponding to only 25%-50% accurate information. Both institutional/reference and HONcode-certified websites were of "good" quality (53.44, SD 11.64 and 60.86, SD 8.74, respectively). Institutional/reference websites were 50%-75% accurate (3.13, SD 1.20).

Most of the online Peyronie's disease treatment information is of mediocre quality and accuracy. The information from institutional/reference websites is of better quality and accuracy, and the information from HONcode-certified websites is of better quality. The mean readability of all websites exceeds the reading ability of most US adults by several grade levels.

Urology. 2018 Apr 30 [Epub ahead of print]

Authors: Nicholas J Bompastore, Theodore Cisu, Peter Holoch, Robert Larner, MD College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT


Go Beyond the Abstract and Read a Commentary by Peter Andrew Holoch, MD

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