HEALTH INFORMATION: Evaluating What’s On The Web
A study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association evaluates different "rating instruments that evaluate Web sites providing health information" in an effort "to describe their criteria, to establish the degree of validation of these rating instruments, and to recommend future directions for research in this area." After evaluating 47 rating instruments, the authors reached several conclusions. "Given the number of instruments already available," they write, "it could be concluded that it is in fact possible to evaluate health information on the Internet." However, given the "complexity, variability, and dynamism of the information ... it could also be argued that any attempt to develop instruments to evaluate such information has been and will be futile." Noting the "large number of incompletely developed instruments to evaluate health information on the Internet" in existence, the authors conclude that it is unclear "whether they should exist in the first place, whether they measure what they claim to measure, or whether they lead to more good than harm." They further write, "We ... need to acknowledge that users may never notice or, if they notice, they may choose to ignore any evidence in support of or against the desirability, feasibility, and benefits of formal evaluations of health information on the Internet." The authors contend that more scientific discussion and debate are needed to determine whether adequate rating tools are feasible for measuring health information content on the Web (Jadad/Gagliardi, 2/25 issue). Click here to link to the full text of the JAMA study.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.