Beware of net-based medicine information

Patients should be aware that quality of info available online varies greatly.

Washington: Beware. Information you seek from the Internet on physical problems arising due to sports may not be accurate.

Orthopaedic surgeon Madhav A Karunakar at the Carolinas Medical Centre in Charolotte in the US explains why it is so.

"We decided to undertake this study (as) patients are presenting physicians with increasing frequency armed with printouts of information obtained from the Internet," said Karunakar.

As a study co-author, he said physicians and patients should be aware that the quality of information available online varies greatly.

"Additionally, physicians should be prepared to discuss this information with their patients in order to ensure that it is not misinterpreted."

The authors studied shoulder ligament injury, tennis elbow, shoulder separation, knee pain and joint defects.

Using the two most frequently used search engines (Google and Yahoo), the authors reviewed the top 10 search results for each diagnosis, looking for completeness, correctness and clarity of the information.

In content, Karunakar says, non-profit sites scored the highest, followed by academic sites (including medical journal sites) and certain non-sales-oriented commercial sites.

The least accurate information sources were newspaper articles and personal websites.

"About 20 percent of the sites that turned up in the top 10 results were sponsored sites," Karunakar says, according to a Carolinas Medical Centre statement.

"These site owners are motivated to promote their product. So the information found there may be biased. We also found these sites rarely mentioned the risks or complications associated with treatment as they are trying to represent their product in the best possible light," he said.

These findings were published in the July issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.


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