Drawing up practical guidelines for a responsible use of the information obtained on the Internet and the e-mail with health purposes

February 26, 2008

Miquel A. Mayer MD PhD, director of Certified Medical Web Site Seal from Medical Association of Barcelona have invited me to join and collaborate in a research project directed by himself and funded by Spanish Health Minister:

Drawing up practical guidelines for a responsible use of the information obtained on the Internet and the e-mail with health purposes

Nowadays, citizens are increasingly using the Internet to access healthcare information. The quality and features of health related websites on the Net is very variable, and this is why different national and European institutions have proposed accreditation initiatives and quality seals but there are no practical guidelines addressed to consumers to help them to use this information in the best way this and the e-mail for health purposes. The goals of this research project are: (1) To know the features of the health related content Spanish websites. (2) To analyse the different national and international quality websites initiatives and guidelines, legal and web accessibility using the Internet. (3) Based on the previous objectives, to draw up a practical guideline for Internet users (general public and patients) to contribute to both a responsible use of health information and better communication with medical doctors of the National Health Service. The methodology will be based firstly on a web based observational study of the Spanish websites with relevant health information using search engines and main health topics. At the same time an analysis of the European, national and international recommendations will be held adding any legal and web accessibility issues and finally to draw up, based on the analysis of the information obtained, a complete set of practical guideline for Internet users.

This work perfectly fix with my currently main task: my dissertation tentatively titled “Society, Health and the Internet: an empirical analysis of the Internet health uses in Catalonia”. One of the chapter of my dissertation will be based on the presentation at York. As I posted a few months ago, between October 2005 and January 2006, all the URLs classified in the Google directory of “Medicine and Health” (1,240 URLs) were identified. URLs were used as unique identifiers of web pages. Those URLs which did not find any web page together with the URLs which identified a document format like .pdf or .doc and those web pages under construction were excluded from the analysis. To sum up, 1,045 web pages were studied following a static snapshot analysis and manual classification (Bauer & Scharl, 2000).

The existence of authors and their affiliation in the content and the date of publication were selected as items to approach the quality of the health content identified. The existence of any terms of use in the web pages was considered as an item to approach the quality of the communication and services provided by the Internet. To sum up, the existence of any tools for rating the quality of the health content on the Internet was selected as general quality criteria.

In a few days I will update my references about this issues and share them through my on line references manager. Any suggestion or reference will be very welcome. Finally, I really would like to thank Miquel Ángel for his invitation to join this research project.