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Understanding online health information: Evaluation, tools, and strategies.

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

Patient Educ Couns, Volume 100, Issue 2, p.183-189 (2017)

Abstract:

<p><b>OBJECTIVE: </b>Considering the status of the Internet as a prominent source of health information, assessing online health material has become a central issue in patient education. We describe the strategies available to evaluate the characteristics of online health information, including readability, emotional content, understandability, usability.</p><p><b>METHODS: </b>Popular tools used in assessment of readability, emotional content and comprehensibility of online health information were reviewed. Tools designed to evaluate both printed and online material were considered.</p><p><b>RESULTS: </b>Readability tools are widely used in online health material evaluation and are highly covariant. Assessment of emotional content of online health-related communications via sentiment analysis tools is becoming more popular. Understandability and usability tools have been developed specifically for health-related material, but each tool has important limitations and has been tested on a limited number of health issues.</p><p><b>CONCLUSION: </b>Despite the availability of numerous assessment tools, their overall reliability differs between readability (high) and understandability (low). Approaches combining multiple assessment tools and involving both quantitative and qualitative observations would optimize assessment strategies.</p><p><b>PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: </b>Effective assessment of online health information should rely on mixed strategies combining quantitative and qualitative evaluations. Assessment tools should be selected according to their functional properties and compatibility with target material.</p>

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