Objective: To develop a comprehensive instrument assessing quality of health-related web sites.
Methods: Phase I consisted of a literature review to identify constructs thought to indicate web site quality and to identify items. During content analysis, duplicate items were eliminated and items that were not clear, meaningful, or measurable were reworded or removed. Some items were generated by the authors. Phase II: a panel consisting of six healthcare and MIS reviewers was convened to assess each item for its relevance and importance to the construct and to assess item clarity and measurement feasibility.
Results: Three hundred and eighty-four items were generated from 26 sources. The initial content analysis reduced the scale to 104 items. Four of the six expert reviewers responded; high concordance on the relevance, importance and measurement feasibility of each item was observed: 3 out of 4, or all raters agreed on 76-85% of items. Based on the panel ratings, 9 items were removed, 3 added, and 10 revised. The WebMedQual consists of 8 categories, 8 sub-categories, 95 items and 3 supplemental items to assess web site quality. The constructs are: content (19 items), authority of source (18 items), design (19 items), accessibility and availability (6 items), links (4 items), user support (9 items), confidentiality and privacy (17 items), e-commerce (6 items).
Conclusion: The "WebMedQual" represents a first step toward a comprehensive and standard quality assessment of health web sites. This scale will allow relatively easy assessment of quality with possible numeric scoring.