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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012 Sep;147(3):462-5. doi: 10.1177/0194599812447733. Epub 2012 May 17.

How good is Google? The quality of otolaryngology information on the internet.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD 20889-5600, USA.



To assess the quality of the information a patient (parent) may encounter using a Google search for typical otolaryngology ailments.


Cross-sectional study.


Tertiary care center.


A Google keyword search was performed for 10 common otolaryngology problems including ear infection, hearing loss, tonsillitis, and so on. The top 10 search results for each were critically examined using the 16-item (1-5 scale) standardized DISCERN instrument. The DISCERN instrument was developed to assess the quality and comprehensiveness of patient treatment choice literature.


A total of 100 Web sites were assessed. Of these, 19 (19%) were primarily advertisements for products and were excluded from DISCERN scoring. Searches for more typically chronic otolaryngic problems (eg, tinnitus, sleep apnea, etc) resulted in more biased, advertisement-type results than those for typically acute problems (eg, ear infection, sinus infection, P = .03). The search for "sleep apnea treatment" produced the highest scoring results (mean overall DISCERN score = 3.49, range = 1.81-4.56), and the search for "hoarseness treatment" produced the lowest scores (mean = 2.49, range = 1.56-3.56). Results from major comprehensive Web sites (WebMD,, Wikipedia, etc.) scored higher than other Web sites (mean DISCERN score = 3.46 vs 2.48, P < .001).


There is marked variability in the quality of Web site information for the treatment of common otolaryngologic problems. Searches on more chronic problems resulted in a higher proportion of biased advertisement Web sites. Larger, comprehensive Web sites generally provided better information but were less than perfect in presenting complete information on treatment options.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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