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This paper objectively evaluates current information available to the general public related to glue ear on the World Wide Web.
The term ‘glue ear’ was typed into the 3 most frequently used internet search engines – Google, Bing and Yahoo – and the first 20 links were analysed. The first 400 words of each page were used to calculate the Flesch–Kincaid readability score. Each website was subsequently graded using the Discern instrument, which gauges quality and content of literature.
The websites Webmd.boots.com, Bupa.co.uk and Patient.co.uk received the highest overall scores. These reflected top scores in either readability or Discern instrument assessment, but not both. Readability and Discern scores increased with the presence of a marketing or advertising incentive. The Patient.co.uk website had the highest Discern score and third highest readability score.
There is huge variation in the quality of information available to patients on the internet. Some websites may be accessible to a wide range of reading ages but have poor quality content, and vice versa. Clinicians should be aware of indicators of quality, and use validated instruments to assess and recommend literature.
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