Background Patients living with fibromyalgia strongly prefer to access health information on the web. However, the majority of subjects in previous studies strongly expressed their concerns about the quality of online information resources.
Objectives The purpose of this study was to evaluate existing online fibromyalgia information resources for content, quality and readability by using standardised quality and readability tools.
Methods The first 25 websites were identified using Google and the search keyword ‘fibromyalgia’. Pairs of raters independently evaluated website quality using two structured tools (DISCERN and a quality checklist). Readability was assessed using the Flesch Reading Ease score maps.
Results Ranking of the websites' quality varied by the tool used, although there was general agreement about the top three websites (Fibromyalgia Information, Fibromyalgia Information Foundation and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases). Content analysis indicated that 72% of websites provided information on treatment options, 68% on symptoms, 60% on diagnosis and 40% on coping and resources. DISCERN ratings classified 32% websites as ‘very good’, 32% as ‘good and 36% as ‘marginal’. The mean overall DISCERN score was 36.88 (good). Only 16% of websites met the recommended literacy level grade of 6–8 (range 7–15).
Conclusion Higher quality websites tended to be less readable. Online fibromyalgia information resources do not provide comprehensive information about fibromyalgia, and have low quality and poor readability. While information is very important for those living with fibromyalgia, current resources are unlikely to provide necessary or accurate information, and may not be usable for most people.
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To cite: Daraz L, MacDermid JC, Wilkins S, et al. The quality of websites addressing fibromyalgia: an assessment of quality and readability using standardised tools. BMJ Open 2011;1:e000152. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000152
Funding This work was supported by a Doctoral Research Award (Frederick Banting and Charles Best Scholarship) from the CIHR, a Strategic Training Fellowship in Rehabilitation Research from the CIHR Musculoskeletal and Arthritis Institute, an S. Leonard Syme Training Fellowship from the Institute for Work & Health and an MSK Training Fellowship from the Ontario Rehabilitation Research Advisory Network to Lubna Daraz.
Competing interests None.
Contributors The first author, LD was in charge of all aspects of research including choosing the topic, formulating research questions, reviewing the literature, designing the study, searching on Google, collecting data, evaluating websites, and drafting and revising the manuscript critically for important intellectual content, and provided final approval of the version to be published. JCMcD made substantial contributions to conception and design, evaluated websites, revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content and provided final approval of the version to be published. SW and JG made substantial contributions to conception and design, evaluated websites, revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content and provided final approval of the version to be published. LS made substantial contributions to conception and design, revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content and provided final approval of the version to be published.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available.
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