User’s Search for Information: A Multi-Language Cross-Sectional Assessment of Websites about Healthcare-Associated Infections

DOI: 10.2478/jccm-2024-0011

Introduction: Healthcare-associated infections have a significant impact on public health, and many patients and their next-of-kin are seeking information on the internet. The study aimed to assess the quality of online written content about healthcare-associated infections available in English, Romanian, and Hungarian languages.
Materials and methods: The study sample included 75 websites, 25 for each language subgroup. The assessment involved examining the general characteristics, adherence to established credibility criteria, and the completeness and accuracy of informational content. The evaluation was conducted using a topic-specific, evidence-based benchmark. Two evaluators independently graded completeness and accuracy; scores were recorded on a scale from 0 to 10. A comparative analysis of websites was performed, considering pertinent characteristics, and potential factors influencing information quality were subjected to testing. The statistical significance was set at 0.05.
Results: For the overall study sample, the average credibility, completeness, and accuracy scores were 5.1 (SD 1.7), 2.4 (SD 1.5), and 5.9 (SD 1.0), respectively. Pairwise comparison tests revealed that English websites rated significantly higher than Romanian and Hungarian websites on all three quality measures (P<0.05). Website specialization, ownership, and main goal were not associated with credibility or content ratings. However, conventional medicine websites consistently scored higher than alternative medicine and other websites across all three information quality measures (P<0.05). Credibility scores were positively but weakly correlated with completeness (rho=0.273; P=0.0176) and accuracy scores (rho=0.365; P=0.0016).
Conclusions: The overall quality ratings of information about healthcare-associated infections on English, Romanian, and Hungarian websites ranged from intermediate to low. The description of information regarding the symptoms and prevention of healthcare-associated infections was notably unsatisfactory. The study identified website characteristics possibly associated with higher-quality online sources about healthcare-associated infections, but additional research is needed to establish robust evidence.

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