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JAMA Article Reveals that even
Top-Rated Sites Give Accurate Info
Only 45% of the Time

Abstracted from: The New York Times Author: Philip J. Hilts

Chicago, IL, May 23, 2001 (CNN) --- If you are relying on websites for valid, reliable healthcare information, be very skeptical, says an article in today's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). A panel of experts convened at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica concluded that ---even among the so-called top-tier medical websites---the information dispensed is only accurate 45% of the time. The study was sponsored by a philanthropic group, the California Health Care Foundation, and carried out by researchers affiliated with RAND.

Dr. James D. Metz, editor in chief of the nonprofit Oncolink site that offers information on cancer and scored among the highest of the 25 sites reviewed, said it was difficult to maintain high-quality information on a website. "Our content is totally written by physicians, nurses and social workers in their fields of expertise," Dr. Metz said. "Very few sites do that." "Too many sites are just trying to sell something," he said, "and it is scary how they can make a bad site look good."

Most notable was the study's review of the quality of information offered by health Web sites. The study involved the six top- rated general health sites, and 12 sites dedicated to specific diseases. Expert panels of physicians and patient advocates selected questions that patients often asked on each subject.

Then, site searchers were trained to scour each Web site for information on a topic. The searchers were given 90 minutes to two hours, more than three times the amount of time consumers report spending when they look for medical information.

Finally, all the information found on each site was collected into notebooks and turned over to a second set of experts, who would score the material for completeness and accuracy.

Completeness was measured by counting how often central questions were covered in some detail. Accuracy was measured by comparing the judgment of several panels of experts with what was found on the site.

On average, reviewers found that Web sites had some information that contradicted other information on the same site and the same topic 53 percent of the time. There was wide variation in whether sources for posted information were given. On average, 65 percent of the sites gave both pieces of source information - authors and a date - but the spread was large, from none to 95 percent across the Web sites.

Read the full text of the JAMA article here.

The USRF website subscribes to the highest standards of Internet reporting, the HONCODES.

The independent medical website-rating organization, MDWebCompendium has recently awarded the USRF website 3 stars---the highest possible rating--- in each of the 2 major categories, content and navigation. USRF was one of only 8 sites in all of urology so recognized.

OncoLink, the cancer-oriented website of the University of Pennsylvania, was judged by the RAND investigators to be one of the best and has thus been designated by USRF as the June, 2001 "Link of the Month." Interested readers are especially directed to the prostate cancer section of Oncolink.


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