Evaluation of chronic pain-related information available to consumers on the Internet

Pain Med. 2013 Jun;14(6):855-64. doi: 10.1111/pme.12087. Epub 2013 Apr 8.


Objective: Recent surveys suggest more than one third of patients utilize the Internet to seek information about chronic pain (CP) and that 60% of patients feel more confident in the information provided online than provided by their physician. Unfortunately, the quality of online information is questionable. For example, some Websites make unsubstantiated claims while others may have covert motives (i.e., product advertisement). This article presents two studies that utilized a well-validated tool to evaluate the quality of online CP-related information.

Design: A Website search was conducted by entering the most commonly used pain-related search terms into the three most commonly used search engines in North America. In study 1, the first 50 Websites from each search were evaluated using a consumer-focused evaluation tool-the DISCERN. In study 2, 21 clients with CP used the DISCERN to rate a random selection of Websites from among the 10 highest scoring and five lower scoring sites from Study 1, and answered open-ended questions regarding the DISCERN and Websites.

Results: Ratings indicated that Websites ranged substantially in quality, with many providing incomplete and incorrect information, and others providing accurate and detailed information. The majority of the Websites provided low-quality information. Client ratings of the Websites were consistent with those of the researchers.

Conclusions: Overall, these findings speak to the risks associated with clients making CP-related treatment choices based on information obtained online without first evaluating the Website.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / diagnosis*
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Consumer Health Information / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Education as Topic / statistics & numerical data*