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Down the Rabbit Hole: Evaluation of Internet Information Quality in Parathyroid and Thyroid Surgery

Published:October 15, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2022.09.004

      Abstract

      Introduction

      Patients often discuss information obtained from Internet sources during clinic visits, which can be of variable quality and depth. We sought to review and assess information on the Internet regarding common operations within endocrine surgery.

      Methods

      Using Google's search engine, the top 100 websites from the search phrase “parathyroid surgery,” and the top 100 websites from the phrase “thyroid surgery” were identified. Each website was evaluated for accessibility, accuracy, and completeness of information about gland hormone function, associated disease processes, and surgery itself. Results were stratified based on the website type, and bivariate analysis was performed to determine accuracy by category. Presence of author credentials, last webpage update, and presence of advertisements were also assessed. Inter-rater reliability was calculated for each variable.

      Results

      For parathyroid surgery, at least two-thirds of all websites included information about surgery, hormone function, and disease processes. For thyroid surgery, 71% of websites included procedure information, but only 52% included information about hormone function and 56% about disease processes. Less than 30% of all websites included advertisements and less than 25% listed author credentials or provided references. Academic or research-affiliated sources were most likely to have zero inaccuracies, but 44% of all websites had at least one potential inaccuracy. Inter-rater reliability achieved at least moderate agreement (>0.41) for 56% of variables.

      Conclusions

      There is a wide array of information available to patients online, and accuracy varies based on multiple factors including the type of website. Endocrine surgeons and related practitioners must be cognizant of this fact when discussing treatment plans with patients.

      Keywords

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