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Pediatrics. 1998 Jun;101(6):E2.

The Internet as a source for current patient information.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Pediatrics, Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, and Columbus Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH 43205, USA.



The purpose of this study was to assess the quality of information a lay person could obtain from Internet (Net) sources regarding the treatment of childhood diarrhea. It also afforded an opportunity to evaluate the awareness and compliance of the general medical community with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines on the management of acute diarrhea.


This was a prospective, open, observational, literature review performed with a computer workstation and medical library. The AAP practice parameter on the management of acute gastroenteritis in young children was selected as the current standard by which to judge all other documents. The Net was searched, and all documents retrievable from the first 300 references were evaluated for compliance with current recommendations on the management of diarrhea in children.


Of 60 articles published by traditional medical sources, only 12 (20%) conformed to current AAP recommendations for treatment of children. The source of the information, even if from a major academic medical center, did not improve the likelihood of compliance.


As demonstrated by information supplied on World Wide Web sites by traditional medical sources, recommendations for the treatment of acute diarrhea show a low percentage of concurrence with the AAP guidelines. Major medical institutions, schools, and hospitals need to devise ways to carefully monitor and establish quality control of what is being distributed from their home pages. Patients must be warned about the voluminous misinformation available on medical subjects on the Net.

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