Finding the best from the rest: evaluation of the quality of patient information on the Internet

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2003 Jan;85(1):44-6. doi: 10.1308/003588403321001435.


Introduction: Information is of utmost importance for patients at risk of developing cancer who require regular screening. Quality assessment is vital to ensure correct information is published on the Internet.

Method: A postal questionnaire was sent to patients under follow-up for Barrett's oesophagus and colonic polyps. Questions related to computer/Internet access, where patients had previously sought information, whether web-sites would be of use, and what information they would like displayed. A review of on-line patient literature for Barrett's oesophagus and colorectal adenomas was performed.

Results: Of the 200 questionnaires sent, 161 patients responded (80.1%). The majority of patients (88%, n = 141) wanted more information on their condition, with 45% (73) having home Internet access and a further 32% (52) having web access from other sources. Only 8% (12) had used the Internet as a source of information; however, the majority of patients (57%) would access a recommended web-site. The Barrett's search resulted in 10/200 sites with full information (i.e. score > 8/10 points). For colorectal polyps there were 12/200 sites.

Conclusions: Accessing quality Internet health information is very time consuming. Recommended web-sites that provide the best information would help patients avoid being overwhelmed with irrelevant and confusing literature.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Barrett Esophagus*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms*
  • Humans
  • Information Services / standards*
  • Internet / standards*
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards*
  • Precancerous Conditions
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires