An evaluation of the information needs of people with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis at the point of first diagnosis at the hospital clinic

Aims of the study:

One of the most common sources of inquiry on the Web is for the purposes of health-related information. The number of Web sites in the field of scoliosis has increased, yet the quality of information is reported to continue to be of poor quality. The 2 previous studies in this area identified Web sites for evaluation through the use of a single search term, “scoliosis,” on the 5 most popular search engines. The main aim of the study is to evaluate the quality of information on scoliosis web sites recommended by UK NHS consultants.

Outcome of research:

Seven Web sites were identified for inclusion in this study from the results of a survey of UK NHS consultants. These were independently evaluated by 3 reviewers using a validated information assessment tool, the DISCERN instrument. DISCERN scores were analysed for correlation between reviewers. Web sites were also analysed for the presence or absence of the quality assurance certification, Health On the Net code. Significant correlations between the DISCERN scores were found for reviewers 1 and 2 and reviewers 2 and 3. The highest mean cumulative score for all items achieved by any of the Web sites evaluated was 49 (maximum = 80, minimum = 15). Only one Web site was found to display the Health On the Net code.

An alternative methodology to identify Web sites for evaluation was used for this study. The findings were however similar to the previous two studies carried out; despite the reported increase in the number of Web sites relating to the field of scoliosis the quality of information on these Web sites remains poor. If healthcare professionals are to suggest Web sites to patients as a source of further information, they should be aware of the content of those Web sites to enable them to make the most appropriate recommendations. Web sites designed to act as a source of health-related information should be maintained in such a way that the information contained is up to date, evidence based, impartial, and written in plain language. It may be suggested that constructing a Web site based on the criteria of the questions on the DISCERN instrument could contribute to the production of a useful, informative, reliable, and credible Web site. Furthermore, the Web sites should be designed in such a way that the content is tailored to suit the patients’ information needs.


An Evaluation of Web Sites Recommended by UK NHS Consultants to Patients With Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis at the First Point of Diagnosis

Shaun Wellburn , BSc(Hons) , Josette Bettany-Saltikov , PhD , and Paul van Schaik , PhD

SPINE Volume 38, Number 18, pp 1590-1594 ©2013, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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