Individuals routinely search the internet for information about healthcare, including conditions and products related to their eyes. Two recent investigations published in Seminars in Ophthalmology caution that the content found on healthcare-based websites, in addition to online video platforms, often is of poor quality and fails to provide sufficient educational information to patients.

The first study found freely available information about AMD online varied by source and was generally of poor quality. Additionally, the online material was difficult to interpret and exceeded the recommended reading level for health information, the authors noted.1

The research team from Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and Wills Eye Hospital cross-referenced AMD information found on 12 free medical websites against literature published on PubMed. The investigators composed a 34-point questionnaire that included information most relevant to patients, and a vitreoretinal surgeon, two vitreoretinal fellows and one ophthalmology resident independently evaluated each website. Readability of the information was also considered, as well as JAMA benchmarks to evaluate each site’s accountability.

The average questionnaire score for all websites was approximately 90 out of 136 possible points, and the researchers found significant differences between each website’s content quality.

All websites were judged to be at an 11th grade reading level—deemed too high for effective communication of complex ideas. The researchers didn’t find a significant link between content accuracy and the mean reading grade or Google rank.

Excluding PubMed, only one website reached the full four JAMA benchmarks. Additionally, no correlation was found between the accuracy of the website content and the JAMA benchmarks.

Regarding the consensus of the reviewers, three out of four of the observers reached similar conclusions. “Most websites reviewed did not provide sufficient information using the grading scheme we used to support the patient in making medical decisions,” they wrote in their paper.

YouTube Gets Low Marks as an IOL Resource

The second study evaluated the quality of multifocal IOL YouTube videos as educational resources.2

The investigative team from Turkey conducted an online YouTube search with the terms “multifocal lens implants” and “multifocal IOLs,” and found 339 videos on the topic, which they pared down to 140 for the study. All videos received independent DISCERN, JAMA and Global Quality (GQ) scores by two ophthalmologists.

The median DISCERN score was 33, which denoted poor quality, while the JAMA score was 1.25 (lowest quality) and the GQ score was 2 (poor quality).

Out of the 140 videos, physicians uploaded 80 (57%) and non-physicians uploaded the other 60 (43%). The investigators found no major difference in general characteristics of the videos between the physician and non-physician groups.

Also, the mean DISCERN, JAMA and GQ scores were similar between the groups.

“Our findings suggest that the content of YouTube videos regarding multifocal IOLs is of generally poor quality and is not adequately educational for patients,” the study authors wrote in their paper.

Nevertheless, to ensure patients’ access to accurate medical information, healthcare specialists should examine the content and reliability of medical information from online videos from the viewpoint of patients, the researchers suggested.

1. Kloosterboer A, Yannuzzi N, Topilow N, et al. Assessing the quality, content, and readability of freely available online information for patients regarding age-related macular degeneration. Semin Ophthalmol. March 1, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].

2. Altunel O, Sirakaya E. Evaluation of YouTube videos as sources of information about multifocal intraocular lens. Semin Ophthalmol. March 2, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].