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News: June 2010
Independent study on the impact of the HONcode certification on the content of websites of 10 most common diagnosis in sports medicine orthopaedic

On July 19, 2010, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery published a study conducted by an independent research team of Starman et al at the Carolinas Medical Center and OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine Center in North Carolina. They used the HONcode to assess the quality and contents of 154 orthopaedic sports medicine websites. Different types of websites were selected: academic, commercial, health professional or personal.

Among the analyzed criteria, they use the HONcode principles to establish a HONscore in order to judge the transparency of the information purposed. The maximum point was 16 and the minimum was 0. The mean score obtained for all websites included was 9.8 +/- 3.6 points. Among the 154 websites, 37 were HON certified. The score obtained by these websites was significantly higher than the 117 websites without the HON certification, with a mean score of 12 +/- 2.71 points versus 8.4 +/-3.13 points (p = 0.0001).

The website content was analyzed as well, and a maximum score of 100 points was established. Similar to the HON score, the HON-certified websites have a significantly higher score, with a mean of 65.4 +/-20.5 points versus 52.9 +/-20.4 points for the non-HON certified websites (p=0.002). It appears from these two analyses that the information provided by the HONcode-certified websites are more reliable than the non-HONcode certified websites, both on the aspects of transparency and on the accuracy of information offered.

The conclusions of this paper suggest that the accuracy and content of health-related information on the Internet remains highly variable across websites for common sports medicine-related diagnoses. They encourage patients seeking health information to exercise critical thinking towards information presented, and to use only well-known sites and those displaying the HONcode seal.

James S. Starman et al., Quality and Content Of Internet-Based Information for Ten Common Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Diagnoses, J Bone Joint Surg Am., 2010;92:1612-18

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