Objectives: This study was conducted to assess the contents of Web-sourced arthritis information and to determine its influence on arthritis patients and medical practice in Korea.
Methods: An electronic search was conducted using the word "arthritis". Web sites found in the Korean language were critically assessed according to authorship, the type of publication, contents, financial interests, and the type of financial interest. Questionnaire surveys of arthritis patients and rheumatologists were performed to appraise the impact of the arthritis information on the Web.
Results: Among 138 web sites retrieved, 18.8% were classified as advertisement and 44.9% as having financial interests, such as the promotion of products or services. Among 257 arthritis patients surveyed, 28% reported that they searched for arthritis information on the web, and the parameters significantly associated with Internet searching were a younger age, being employed, and having a higher income and a higher education. While the difference in ratings regarding the accuracy of Web-sourced arthritis information between physicians and patients was not significant, only 16.1% of physicians responded that their patients understand the Internet content accurately. Physicians also tended to reply more negatively about the contents and the influence of Web-sourced arthritis information than patients.
Conclusion: Analysis of Korean arthritis web sites revealed many sites with financial interests. There was also a discrepancy found between patients and physicians regarding the impact of Web-sourced arthritis information on the doctor-patient relationship. Because the impact of the Internet on health care is expected to increase, physicians need to be prepared to help patients benefit from information obtained from the Internet.