Introduction To measure the search demand for websites with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) information and to review the quality of the typical search results returned.
Method Between January 2009 and December 2014 the Google search engine was used to provide search trend analysis and the top 10 search results of each year. Websites were critically reviewed using the Minervation (LIDA) healthcare website tool. Website accessibility, usability, reliability and overall quality were recorded. Six countries, the USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were studied.
Results The mean (s.d.) search demand for online information about IBS has increased significantly from 51.6 (12.7) in 2009 to 65.8 (19.5) in 2014 (r²=0.064 P < 0.001). The USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland all showed a significant increase, whereas demand in South Africa actually fell. The vast majority of websites were commercial healthcare information portals (n = 109, 26%) medicinal or product advertisements (n = 88, 21.0%) or healthcare professional advertisements (n = 80, 19.0%). Website quality was variable. Overall the USA and UK had the best online healthcare resources available, whereas most other counties were low quality and dominated by commercial advertisements.
Conclusion Online demand for healthcare information about IBS is increasing, however, a significant number of online healthcare resources are unreliable and of poor quality. Islands of high quality information do exist but they are often very academic in nature.
Disclosure of interest None Declared.
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