• Users Online: 2954
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

   Table of Contents      
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 267-269

Reliability of "Google" for obtaining medical information

1 Department of Ocular Motility, Jyotirmay Eye Clinic and Ocular Motility Laboratory, Thane, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission28-Jul-2014
Date of Acceptance13-Mar-2015
Date of Web Publication13-May-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Mihir Kothari
Jyotirmay Eye Clinic for Children and Adult Squint, Ocular Motility Lab and Pediatric Low Vision Center, 205 Ganatra Estate, Khopat, Thane West, Thane - 400 601, Maharashtra
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0301-4738.156934

Rights and Permissions

Internet is used by many patients to obtain relevant medical information. We assessed the impact of "Google" search on the knowledge of the parents whose ward suffered from squint. In 21 consecutive patients, the "Google" search improved the mean score of the correct answers from 47% to 62%. We found that "Google" search was useful and reliable source of information for the patients with regards to the disease etiopathogenesis and the problems caused by the disease. The internet-based information, however, was incomplete and not reliable with regards to the disease treatment.

Keywords: Evaluation of Google, information on internet, medical information, patient counseling, patient information, web content

How to cite this article:
Kothari M, Moolani S. Reliability of "Google" for obtaining medical information. Indian J Ophthalmol 2015;63:267-9

How to cite this URL:
Kothari M, Moolani S. Reliability of "Google" for obtaining medical information. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Aug 10];63:267-9. Available from: https://www.ijo.in/text.asp?2015/63/3/267/156934

The World-Wide-Web or internet has become an important source of information including medical information globally. Many patients or their relatives, especially in an urban area have an easy access to the internet and routinely make use of it to obtain medical information. Various investigators have critically evaluated the websites and the patient-oriented medical information on internet in the past and found them scientifically inaccurate, incomplete and biased. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5] Nevertheless, patients as well as professionals around the world continue to rely on the internet for deriving important information regarding their health conditions and its management. Despite such a popular trend, there is no study that has evaluated the impact of the internet on the patient's knowledge so far.

In this study, we have found a few advantages and limitations of using internet for obtaining the medical information by the patient. The data presented in this study would would help the clinicians inform their patients on what to rely and how much to rely on the internet for their health needs.

  Methods Top

The study was performed between 31 st March, 2012 and 30 th Jun, 2012. The parents of children with a squint and amblyopia, having an access to internet at home and/or office and who would access the internet on daily basis were given a questionnaire [Table 1]. Only those parents who had not visited an ophthalmologist prior to this visit and who had not done an internet search relevant to the study were included. The parents were first informed that the child had a significant strabismus and required further evaluation three days later. The child was prescribed atropine eye ointment for 3 days for cycloplegic refraction as was the routine protocol of the clinic.
Table 1: Questionnaire used in the study

Click here to view

The parents were given a questionnaire and explained the purpose of this study. After an oral consent, the parents were recruited in the study.

Completely filled questionnaire was returned on the follow-up visit that was scheduled within a week. Each answer was scored (0 for no/wrong answer and +1 for the correct answer), and cumulative scores were analyzed. Paired t-test was performed to compare the total score before and after the Google Search. P < 0.05 was considered as statistically significant.

Sample size calculation

For 80% power, 5% level of significance, 3.0 standard deviation and 20% effect size we needed n = (Z 1−α/2 − Z 1−β) 2 Sd 2 /d 2 that is, 18 patients. [6]

  Results Top

Twenty-one consecutive parents were recruited in the study. About 48% were graduates and 52% were postgraduates. About 52% respondents were mothers, rest 48% were fathers. Mean total score before Google Search was 3.8 out of a maximum 8 (standard deviation 1.9, range 0-7). Mean total score after Google Search was 5 (±2.1, 1-8). This difference was statistically significant (P = 0.003).

Before Google Search, the lowest awareness about the squint was found to questions 3 and 7. About 76% parents were not aware of the potential defects that occur due to a squint or aware of the correct success rates of the squint surgeries [Figure 1]. Highest positive impact of Google Search was seen on question 3 (47%) and 2 (39%). In 1 patient, negative impact of Google Search was seen on question 5 [Figure 2].
Figure 1: The number of correct responses to the questionnaire before and after "Google" search

Click here to view
Figure 2: The percentage improvement in the correctness of the responses for each question

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

Google Search engine is frequently accessed by the patients coming to our clinics for obtaining relevant medical information. Many patients would have either visited multiple websites prior to meeting us or browse through them after we have informed them about the medical diagnosis. Despite multiple studies reporting the lack of accuracy and reliability of internet for obtaining the information, [1],[2],[3],[4],[5] we believe this trend of referring to internet will continue. The medical fraternity needs to provide unbiased and scientific guidelines to their patients on what to rely and what not to rely when using the internet.

In this study, we found that Google Search had a positive impact on the knowledge of the patients regarding the disease. However, the information was incomplete and many times biased with regards to the treatment protocols and outcomes. The study demonstrated that the internet was a reliable source of information for the etiopathogenesis and the defects due to the disease. That information remained unbiased, was obtained from the books and authentic research papers, and there were no commercial interests in that information. However, the information regarding the treatment was controversial and had a major commercial angle to it when the contents of the websites were evaluated by the co-author from the first 10 websites on "Google" search engine for the keywords "squint" using [Table 2].
Table 2: The scoring system and the results of the evaluation of the top 10 of the "Google" search engine

Click here to view

  Conclusion Top

We encourage the patients to use internet to know more about their disease albeit with the knowledge that the information on the etiopathogenesis and the disease associated handicap would be reliable. The information about the treatment could be incomplete, frequently written by nonexperts and with the commercial objectives.

  References Top

Al-Bahrani A, Plusa S. The quality of patient-orientated internet information on colorectal cancer. Colorectal Dis 2004;6:323-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
Beredjiklian PK, Bozentka DJ, Steinberg DR, Bernstein J. Evaluating the source and content of orthopaedic information on the Internet. The case of carpal tunnel syndrome. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2000;82-A: 1540-3.  Back to cited text no. 2
Sutherland LA, Wildemuth B, Campbell MK, Haines PS. Unraveling the web: An evaluation of the content quality, usability, and readability of nutrition web sites. J Nutr Educ Behav 2005;37:300-5.  Back to cited text no. 3
Morr S, Shanti N, Carrer A, Kubeck J, Gerling MC. Quality of information concerning cervical disc herniation on the Internet. Spine J 2010;10:350-4.  Back to cited text no. 4
Yeung TM, Mortensen NJ. Assessment of the quality of patient-orientated Internet information on surgery for diverticular disease. Dis Colon Rectum 2012;55:85-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
Naduvilath TJ, John RK, Dandona L. Sample size for ophthalmology studies. Indian J Ophthalmol 2000;48:245-50.  Back to cited text no. 6
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]

This article has been cited by
1 Living Without a Diagnosis: A Patient’s Perspective on Diabetic Macular Ischemia
Jacqueline D. Humphreys, Sobha Sivaprasad
Ophthalmology and Therapy. 2022;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Prevalence of using herbs and natural products as a protective measure during the COVID-19 pandemic among the Saudi population: an online cross-sectional survey
Amna Abdullah Alotiby, Laila Naif Al-Harbi
Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal. 2021; 29(5): 410
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Exploring the Attitudes of Patients towards using the Seha Application (Telehealth) in Saudi Arabia during the Coronavirus Epidemic
Mohammed Omar ALOmari, Judy Jenkins
ABC Journal of Advanced Research. 2021; 10(1): 9
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Google Medical Update: Why Is the Search Engine Decreasing Visibility of Health and Medical Information Websites?
Artur Strzelecki
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(4): 1160
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
Dolli S. Aasani, Jayesh Kathiria, Mohit Chauhan
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 Giving and receiving a diagnosis of a progressive neurological condition: A scoping review of doctors’ and patients’ perspectives
Eleftherios Anestis, Fiona Eccles, Ian Fletcher, Maddy French, Jane Simpson
Patient Education and Counseling. 2020; 103(9): 1709
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
7 Parent-Targeted Education Regarding Infant Pain Management Delivered During the Perinatal Period
Brianna Richardson, Allyson Falconer, Joshna Shrestha, Christine Cassidy, Marsha Campbell-Yeo, Janet A. Curran
Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing. 2020; 34(1): 56
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
8 Assessing online information sources on ileal pouch-anal anastomosis
Zarah Perry-Woodford, Jonathan Segal, Susan Clark, Ailsa Hart, Aitor Pérez de Arenaza
Gastrointestinal Nursing. 2017; 15(1): 20
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
Article Figures
Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded266    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 8    

Recommend this journal