The Scientific World Journal |Research Article | Open Access
Volume 2020 |Article ID 1562028 | 8 pages | doi.org/10.1155/2020/1562028
Background. The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has spread globally from its epicenter in Hubei, China, and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. The most popular search engine worldwide is Google, and since March 2020, COVID-19 has been a global trending search term. Misinformation related to COVID-19 from these searches is a problem, and hence, it is of high importance to assess the quality of health information over the internet related to COVID-19. The objective of our study is to examine the quality of COVID-19 related health information over the internet using the DISCERN tool.
Methods. The keywords included in assessment of COVID-19 related information using Google’s search engine were “Coronavirus,” “Coronavirus causes,” “Coronavirus diagnosis,” “Coronavirus prevention,” and “Coronavirus management”. The first 20 websites from each search term were gathered to generate a list of 100 URLs. Duplicate sites were excluded from this search, allowing analysis of unique sites only. Additional exclusion criteria included scientific journals, nonoperational links, nonfunctional websites (where the page was not loading, was not found, or was inactive), and websites in languages other than English. This resulted in a unique list of 48 websites. Four independent raters evaluated the websites using a 16-item DISCERN tool to assess the quality of novel coronavirus related information available on the internet. The interrater reliability agreement was calculated using the intracluster correlation coefficient.
Results. Results showed variation in how the raters assigned scores to different website categories. The .com websites received the lowest scores. Results showed that .edu and .org website category sites were excellent in communicating coronavirus related health information; however, they received lower scores for treatment effect and treatment choices.
Conclusion. This study highlights the gaps in the quality of information that is available on the websites related to COVID-19 and study emphasizes the need for verified websites that provide evidence-based health information related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.