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  • Author
    Allison Brimacombe
  • PI

    Jennifer Hsiao, MD

  • Co-Author

    Allison Brimacombe BS, MGH, Terri Shih BS, Vivian Shi MD, Jennifer Hsiao MD

  • Title

    Assessing the readability, quality, and comprehensiveness of online health resources for nonmelanoma skin cancer

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  • Other Program (if not listed above)

  • Abstract

    Objectives: This study was performed to assess the readability, quality, and comprehensiveness of the top online resources available to the general public pertaining to nonmelanoma skin cancer.

    Background: Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most prevalent type of skin cancer, affecting over 3 million people per year. As more people look online for health information, it is important to assess the quality, readability, and comprehensiveness of online resources. The American Medical Association recommends that materials for patients be written at or below a sixth-grade level, but previous studies of online health resources for patients have shown that this is often not the case.

    Methods: In this study, we analyzed and evaluated the top resources on Google for the search term “nonmelanoma skin cancer.” The readability of each source was assessed by six different validated readability scales, and quality and comprehension were assessed with the JAMA Benchmark and DISCERN Instrument. Comprehensiveness was assessed by extraction of data regarding inclusion of selected information.

    Results: The average reading level of websites analyzed was eleventh grade, and 83% of websites rated as “fair” or poorer on the DISCERN Instrument. The average JAMA Benchmark score was 1.58 out of 4. Many websites were comprehensive in including information such as treatment and risk factors, but very few included examples of images of skin cancer in a diversity of skin tones. No correlation was found between readability and quality (p=0.54).

    Conclusion: There is a need for better quality, readability, and comprehensiveness of online patient resources pertaining to nonmelanoma skin cancer. 

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