Affecting more than 30 million adults annually, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disorder in the United States. A variety of management options for knee OA exists, including physical therapy, weight loss, intra-articular corticosteroid injections, and total joint arthroplasty. With many treatments available, patients often utilize the internet to educate themselves about their condition and management options. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the quality, transparency, and readability of online information for the treatment of knee OA.
The search terms “knee,” “arthritis,” and “treatment” were entered into an incognito mode Google browser. Websites were classified by type (commercial, academic, nonacademic medical practice, government/patient advocacy, and other) and graded on content quality, transparency, and readability using the following scores, respectively: modified DISCERN, Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Benchmark, and Flesch-Kincaid (FK) grade level.
Of the 95 websites evaluated, commercial (mean, 38.2) and academic (37.3) sites had the highest total DISCERN scores, which were significantly greater than nonacademic medical practice (31.8) and government/patient advocacy sites (33.4) (p≤0.035). Nonacademic medical practice sites had the lowest mean total DISCERN (31.8) and JAMA (1.47) scores and the highest FK grade level readability (9.5). There was a significant positive correlation between mean total DISCERN and JAMA scores (r=0.46, p<0.001).
The mean overall quality of websites regarding the treatment of OA was good as evidenced by greater modified DISCERN scores. However, website quality ranged from poor to excellent, indicating that some websites are still missing key information patients may find useful when assessing treatment options online.