Quality of patient health information on the Internet: reviewing a complex and evolving landscape

Australas Med J. 2014 Jan 31;7(1):24-8. doi: 10.4066/AMJ.2014.1900. eCollection 2014.


Background: The popularity of the Internet has enabled unprecedented access to health information. As a largely unregulated source, there is potential for inconsistency in the quality of information that reaches the patient.

Aims: To review the literature relating to the quality indicators of health information for patients on the Internet.

Method: A search of English language literature was conducted using PubMed, Google Scholar and EMBASE databases.

Results: Many articles have been published which assess the quality of information relating to specific medical conditions. Indicators of quality have been defined in an attempt to predict higher quality health information on the Internet. Quality evaluation tools are scoring systems based on indicators of quality. Established tools such as the HONcode may help patients navigate to more reliable information. Google and Wikipedia are important emerging sources of patient health information.

Conclusion: The Internet is crucial for modern dissemination of health information, but it is clear that quality varies significantly between sources. Quality indicators for web-information have been developed but there is no agreed standard yet. We envisage that reliable rating tools, effective search engine ranking and progress in crowd-edited websites will enhance patient access to health information on the Internet.

Keywords: Internet; health; patient information; quality evaluation.

Publication types

  • Review