Website quality indicators for consumers

J Med Internet Res. 2005 Nov 15;7(5):e55. doi: 10.2196/jmir.7.5.e55.

Abstract

Background: The rating tool DISCERN was designed for use by consumers without content expertise to evaluate the quality of health information. There is some evidence that DISCERN may be a valid indicator of evidence-based website quality when applied by health professionals. However, it is not known if the tool is a valid measure of evidence-based quality when used by consumers. Since it is a lengthy instrument requiring training in its use, DISCERN may prove impractical for use by the typical consumer. It is therefore important to explore the validity of other simpler potential indicators of site quality such as Google PageRank.

Objective: This study aimed to determine (1) whether the instrument DISCERN is a valid indicator of evidence-based Web content quality for consumers without specific mental health training, and (2) whether Google PageRank is an indicator of website content quality as measured by an evidence-based gold standard.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey of depression websites using consumer and health professional raters. The main outcome measures were (1) site characteristics, (2) evidence-based quality of content as measured by evidence-based depression guidelines, (3) DISCERN scores, (4) Google PageRank, and (5) user satisfaction.

Results: There was a significant association between evidence-based quality ratings and average DISCERN ratings both for consumers (r = 0.62, P = .001) and health professionals (r = 0.80, P < .001). Consumer and health professional DISCERN ratings were significantly correlated (r = 0.77, P < .001). The evidence-based quality score correlated with Google PageRank (r = 0.59, P = .002). However, the correlation between DISCERN scores and user satisfaction was higher than the correlation between Google PageRank and user satisfaction.

Conclusions: DISCERN has potential as an indicator of content quality when used either by experts or by consumers. Google PageRank shows some promise as an automatic indicator of quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Depressive Disorder*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Internet / standards*
  • Medical Informatics*
  • Online Systems / standards
  • Patient Satisfaction*