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Readability, credibility and quality of patient information for hypogonadism and testosterone replacement therapy on the Internet

Abstract

The incidence of hypogonadism and use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) are rising, while data evaluating the complexity and quality of health-care information available to patients on the Internet for hypogonadism or TRT are lacking. This study focuses on characterizing the readability, credibility and quality of patient-centered information for hypogonadism on the Internet. A Google search was performed to identify top-ranked websites offering patient-centered information on hypogonadism and TRT. Readability was quantified by reading grade level using several validated instruments. Credibility and quality were determined by several additional criteria, including authorship, references, health-care information quality certification and breadth of topic discussion. Twenty of 75 total sites identified (27%) met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and were evaluated. The mean reading grade level was 13.1 (interquartile range 11.7–15.1), with all websites demonstrating reading levels significantly above recommended levels. Less than half (45%) of the sites were neither authored nor reviewed by a physician, 60% contained at least one reference and 40% were certified for displaying quality health-care information. Over half (55%) did not comprehensively discuss management of hypogonadism or mention treatment-associated risks. In conclusion, the majority of patient-centered information available on the Internet regarding hypogonadism or TRT is of poor quality and too complex for the average patient to comprehend. These results highlight a critical shortage in easily accessible, high-quality, comprehensible online patient health-care information on hypogonadism and TRT.

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Correspondence to J A McBride.

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McBride, J., Carson, C. & Coward, R. Readability, credibility and quality of patient information for hypogonadism and testosterone replacement therapy on the Internet. Int J Impot Res 29, 110–114 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijir.2017.4

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