The top websites appearing from an online search of the word ‘glaucoma’ need improvements with respect to appropriately communicating information about the disease, according to a study published in Ophthalmology Glaucoma. 

Glaucoma specialists conducted an online search by entering the word ‘glaucoma’ into the search bar. They evaluated the first 15 sites ranked by the search engine and rated them on readability, content, accuracy, quality, navigability, and graphic depictions of glaucoma. Researchers graded the content, accuracy, and navigability of individual sites on subjective scales (0-2, 1-4, and 1-3, respectively), with larger numbers representing greater amounts of each characteristic. Cumulatively, respective scores of 50, 12, and 9 were possible. They used Flesch-Kincaid scoring to assign a grade level (3rd-12th) to each site. Investigators assessed website quality based on ownership, purpose, authorship, writer qualifications, attributions, interactivity and currency. These categories were divided into even more subheadings, and a total quality score of 13 was possible for each website. Graphic content analysis acknowledged the presence of videos, graphs, and other visual aids.

The researchers determined the content score to be 28 (56% of possible points) with good inter-rater reliability (0.619, 0.746, 0.872 for pairwise comparisons between graders) and moderate overall agreement (Fleiss’ multirater kappa=0.447). Mean accuracy, navigability, and quality scores were 9.8, 7.5, and 7.7, respectively (82%, 83%, and 59% of all possible points, respectively). They determined the average reading level of the sites to be 9.3, a total of 3 grade levels higher than the sixth grade level recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services. Among the 15 sites, 11 included graphic content (73%), and 7 included videos.


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“As almost half of glaucoma patients access health information on the internet, online materials can have a significant influence on patient decision-making just as they have in other specialties,” according to the researchers. “Therefore, it is imperative that websites that provide educational resources regarding glaucoma are scrutinized for the quality of their content and are ideally continuously improved with the latest and most accurate information.”

Study limitations include the potential for researcher bias, a failure to investigate searches for other key words, and a lack of knowledge of how the search engine’s algorithm ranks websites. 

Reference

Jia J, Shukla AG, Lee D, Razeghinejad R, Myers JS, Kolomeyer NN. What glaucoma patients are reading on the internet: a systematic analysis of online glaucoma content. Ophthalmol Glaucoma. Published online February 1, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.ogla.2022.01.002