The development and evaluation of a computer-based tool for assessing web-based information on medicines

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Research showed that people searching for health information is one of the top reasons for Internet use. In Britain, it is estimated that 38 million use the Internet on a daily basis and 43% of them operate it as a resource for health-related information. People with chronic ailments were reported using the Internet for diagnosis and treatment information. While there is a plethora of web-based information about medicines available online with high and low quality, previous developed quality assessment checklists might seem unfeasible and time consuming. Therefore, as it is desirable to help people to get advantages from the internet through identifying good quality information. This research aimed to develop and evaluate a computer-based tool that can automatically evaluate the quality of web-based information about medicines. Methods: In this work, four studies were conducted to satisfy the research aim and objectives specified. Study 1 was to explore how a cohort of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) employed the internet to find web-based information regarding their disease and treatment and the difficulties or problems they faced. Study 2 was to determine the current medicines use among the above cohort of patients. Study 3 was to conduct reliability testing of identified criteria from the literature to make sure they are suitable for assessing websites information about medicines. Study 4 was to develop and evaluate a computer-based tool that could automatically evaluate consumer-oriented web-based information about medicines taking account of the results of the above three studies. Results: study 1 was conducted on people with MS as a cohort of patients and revealed their demand for information on websites, but also revealed their difficulties in the assessment of such information. 42.1% of the participants who answered the survey would like to have had a single website that presents information assessed for quality. Study 2 recommended for further study an antidepressant called Amitriptyline as a common medicine used among people with MS. Study 3 determined the reliability statistics of the Keystone action plan criteria in comparison with three commonly used assessment tools, namely the quality instrument for assessing online consumer health information on treatment choices (DISCERN ), the Health On the Net code of conduct for websites to address reliability and usefulness of medical information on the Internet ( HONcode principles), and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmarks designed to evaluate the quality of medical information offered online. Study 4 presented the development, demonstration and evaluation processes of the proposed computer-based tool for assessing web-based information on medicines. Conclusion: People with MS as a cohort of patients were found in this research to seek information on the internet regularly. Information assessment was described as difficult by the majority of them. The automatic assessment tool proposed in this work was tested successfully by evaluating the quality of web-based information about Amitriptyline. The approach followed in this research can be further developed to evaluate the web-based information about other types of medicines in future.