Quality of web-based information on inflammatory bowel diseases

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2009 Dec;15(12):1891-6. doi: 10.1002/ibd.20976. Epub 2009 May 21.


Background: The Internet is the largest source of health information and is widely used by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients. As information is largely unregulated, our objective was to evaluate the quality, readability, accuracy, and accessibility of the information concerning IBD available on the World Wide Web.

Methods: The phrases "inflammatory bowel disease," "Crohn's disease," and "Ulcerative Colitis" were entered separately as search terms into the 6 most commonly used search engines. Sites were categorized as institutional, pharmaceutical, nonpharmaceutical commercial sites, charitable, support, or alternative medicine. Websites were evaluated for content quality using the validated DISCERN rating instrument. Readability was graded by the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score.

Results: Of the 76 websites evaluated by DISCERN, 43% of the sites were rated as excellent to good and 57% as fair to poor. Alternative medicine sites scored significant lower (P > 0.05) than institutional, pharmaceutical, and nonpharmaceutical commercial sites. There was no relation between a rating score and the position of a website on the search engine ranking. The median Flesch Reading Ease Score was 41.65 (range, 2.6-77.7) and 11.85 (range, 6.2-21.1) for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

Conclusions: The quality of websites containing information on IBD varies widely. Most of the online material available is too difficult to comprehend for a substantial portion of the patient population, and good quality information may be beyond reach of the average information seeker.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Comprehension
  • Consumer Health Information / standards*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Internet / standards*
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards*