Quality of patient health information on the Internet: reviewing a complex and evolving landscape

Eamonn T Fahy, Rohan Sameer Hardikar, Adrian Fox, Sean Desmond Patrick Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Background The popularity of the Internet has enabled unprecedented access to health information. As a largely unregulated source, there is potential for inconsistency in the quality of information that reaches the patient. Aims To review the literature relating to the quality indicators of health information for patients on the Internet. Method A search of English language literature was conducted using PubMed, Google Scholar and EMBASE databases. Results Many articles have been published which assess the quality of information relating to specific medical conditions. Indicators of quality have been defined in an attempt to predict higher quality health information on the Internet. Quality evaluation tools are scoring systems based on indicators of quality. Established tools such as the HONcode may help patients navigate to more reliable information. Google and Wikipedia are important emerging sources of patient health information. Conclusion The Internet is crucial for modern dissemination of health information, but it is clear that quality varies significantly between sources. Quality indicators for web-information have been developed but there is no agreed standard yet. We envisage that reliable rating tools, effective search engine ranking and progress in crowd-edited websites will enhance patient access to health information on the Internet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24 - 28
Number of pages5
JournalAustralasian Medical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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