Objectives: Google search results can have an outsized impact on the health information that consumers find and trust. The researchers analyzed the health-related websites that show up most frequently on the first page of Google search results. After determining the websites that appear most frequently, the authors would evaluate the quality of the health information on these websites using the DISCERN instrument and the CRAAP test.
Methods: To replicate a common health information search, a list of search terms was gathered from the most frequently searched health-related topics on Google Trends. Each term would then be searched on Google and the authors compiled a list of the first 10 search results for each term. The authors cleared their search history and cookies from their browsers before searching. They also set their browsers to incognito/private mode and conducted the same search in three different regions of the country using a VPN to avoid any targeted results. The websites that appeared most frequently were then independently evaluated by two of the authors using the DISCERN tool and CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) test to determine if these sites were providing quality information.
Results: A total of 62 terms were identified from Google Trends and searched on Google. 174 unique websites were found through the search results from all the terms. The top six websites that appeared most frequently for all the Google searches were WebMD(61), Mayo Clinic (57), MedlinePlus (52), Medical News Today (48), Center for Disease Control (36), and MedicineNet (28). The only website to rate an excellent score in both evaluation tools was MedlinePlus (DISCERN 67.5; CRAAP 21). The lowest rated website was Medical News Today (DISCERN 44.5; CRAAP 14.5).
Conclusions: Through our search of the most frequently searched health-related terms, it was evident that Google search results appear most often from six common websites. Evaluating the information from these six websites revealed that there was a wide range in terms of quality. Based on this assessment, MedlinePlus should be recommended by health information professionals and those in the healthcare field for general health information. The health information on the most popular websites is of at least average quality, regardless of which website is used. Health science librarians can use these scores to help educate their students and faculty about the differences between websites when searching for health information on Google.
Portillo, I. A., Johnson, S. Y., & Johnson, C. V. (2020, Aug.). Evaluating the quality of information found in the most common health websites in Google using DISCERN and CRAAP [Poster]. Medical Library Association vConference. https://cdmcd.co/b4DMa8