Online information on pancreatic cancer lacks both readability for the overall population and accurate information about alternative therapy, a study published in JAMA Surgery has shown.1
The readability of written education materials and the accuracy of the information provided can have a substantial impact on the empowerment of patients seeking to influence their treatment management plan; however, the association between a website’s affiliation or focus on treatment approach and its readability and accuracy remains unclear. Therefore, researchers sought to compare the readability and accuracy of patient-oriented online resources for pancreatic cancer.
For the study, investigators assessed 50 websites that discussed 5 pancreatic treatment modalities, including clinical trials, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and alternative therapy. Readability was measured by 9 standardized tests and accuracy was evaluated by an expert panel.
Results showed that websites discussing surgery were easier to read than those discussing radiotherapy and clinical trials (P = .002). In addition, websites created by nonprofit organizations were easier to read than media and academic websites (P < .001). Privately owned websites were easier to read than media websites (P = .001).
In terms of accuracy, websites discussing alternative therapy demonstrated the lowest scores (P < .001). Researchers found that nonprofit, government, and academic websites were more accurate than privately owned websites and media websites (P < .004).
Interestingly, websites with higher accuracy were more difficult to read compared with websites of lower accuracy.
The findings ultimately suggest that due to the lack of quality control on the Internet, clinicians should provide guidance to patients in the selection of online resources that provide accurate information at an appropriate reading level.
- Storino A, Castillo-Angeles M, Watkins AA, et al. Assessing the accuracy and readability of online health information for patients with pancreatic cancer [published online ahead of print May 4, 2016]. JAMA Surg. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2016.0730.