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Farhan H. Zaidi, Nizar Din, Louisa Wickham; Vitreoretinal Surgery and the Internet. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2011;52(14):540.
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Attention has recently been directed to how the internet influences the interaction between patients and their doctors. Vitreoretinal surgery has received very little attention in terms of how the internet influences patient behaviour. We assessed the quality of information accessed by patients using the internet.
The words ‘retinal detachment’ and ‘macular hole’ were subjected to an advanced keyword search. These analyse average monthly search volumes over a 12 month period using the Google search engine. This showed that the most popular search terms on these topics conducted by users of the internet were ‘retinal detachment’, ‘macular hole’ and ‘macular hole surgery’. These three search terms were then inputted into Google and the first 5 pages of websites per search term studied using a validated instrument. The 4 criteria published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for qualifying information from the internet were used in the analysis, yielding a possible score of between 0 and 4 for attribution of information, date, authorship and duality of interest statements.
150 websites were studied. With retinal detachments 28 % of websites sites scored 0, 36% scored 1, 16% scored 2, 14% scored 3 and only 6% of websites scored 4. With the search term ‘macular hole surgery’ 18 % of websites sites scored 0, 16% scored 1, 22% scored 2, 10% scored 3 and only 34% of websites scored 4. With the search term ‘macular hole’ 22 % of websites sites scored 0, 16% scored 1, 12% scored 2, 10% scored 3 and 40% of websites scored 4. Superior scores were obtained by online encyclopedias, book chapters and peer-reviewed journals. There was no evidence that websites offering private treatment compromised the quality of data. Websites of professional organisations did better than in other subspecialties that have been recently studied.
The quality of information accessed by patients on retinal detachment is in need of improvement. The quality of information accessed by patients on macular hole is better - this may be as the websites for macular hole accessed by users of the internet comprised a greater proportion of work from academic journals and fewer commercial websites. These results are topical and of relevance to clinicians, researchers and patients in an age where more and more patients are using the internet as a resource for healthcare information and misinformation.
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