Web 2.0 challenges the tools for rating quality of health information on the Internet

October 14, 2007

During these months I have been working hard on Health and Web 2.0. I have visited many web sites looking for the main features about interaction among different healthcare agents, multimedia contents and “expert” and “lay” knowledge. I haven’t found many sites who care about formal quality. That makes me think about the concept of quality in Web 2.0.Last week I had the pleasure to meet face to face with Miguel Angel Mayer, Director of Web Mèdica Acreditada

The Web Mèdica Acreditada (WMA) is a project of the Medical Association of Barcelona. It is a non-profit, independent project which seeks to build trust on line and improve the quality of health information on the Internet through its web consulting service that targets the Spanish-speaking web community.

We had a wonderful talking about many issues and he reminded me the Petra Wilson’s article titled How to find the good and avoid the bad or ugly: a short guide to tools for rating quality of health information on the internet * Commentary: On the way to quality where she makes a classification of tools for rating quality of health information on the Internet (see table below or the original article)


Even without Web 2.0 Petra Wilson points out:

No organisation or label has the capacity to identify objectively what is good or bad information. Quality remains an inherently subjective assessment, which depends on the type of information needed, the type of information searched for, and the particular qualities and prejudices of the consumer.

As consumers of traditional media we have learnt to use a wide range of assessment tools. We have learnt to judge the nature of the outlet providing the information (mainstream bookshop or provided by the author), the look and feel of the publication (magazine or one page pamphlet), and we know who to contact for further information (librarian, bookshop assistant, publisher).

The greatest challenge is not to develop yet more rating tools, but to encourage consumers to seek out information critically, and to encourage them to see time invested in critical searching as beneficial.

If Web 2.0 is changing relations between the production and consumption of internet content, encourage consumer to seek out information critically is even more important than before. Are reputation, meritocracy, tag-based folksonomies,.. useful tools to rate health information on the Internet? Could we talk just about cost or may we talk about network cost? Is lay knowledge as useful and as expert knowledge to rate information? Are consumers of traditional media the same consumers/producers of Web 2.0?