Assessing the Quality, Content, and Readability of Freely Available Online Information for Patients Regarding Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Amy Kloosterboer, Nicolas Yannuzzi, Nicole Topilow, Nimesh Patel, Ajay Kuriyan, Jayanth Sridhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: One of the top ten causes of disability in the United States is vision loss, primarily due to age-related eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. With an aging population, the number of people affected by this condition is expected to rise. Patients increasingly turn to the internet for health-related information, but no standard exists across published websites. Objective: To assess the quality, content, accountability and readability of information found online for age-related macular degeneration. Design: This cross-sectional study analyzed 12 freely available medical sites with information on age-related macular degeneration and used PubMed as a gold standard for comparison. Thirty-four questions were composed to include information most relevant to patients and each website was independently evaluated by one vitreoretinal surgeon, two vitreoretinal fellows and one ophthalmology resident. Readability was analyzed using an online readability tool. The JAMA benchmarks were used to evaluate the accountability of each site. Setting: Freely available online information was used in this study. Results: The average questionnaire score for all websites was 90.23 (SD 17.56, CI 95% ±9.55) out of 136 possible points. There was a significant difference between the content quality of the websites (P = .01). The mean reading grade for all websites was 11.44 (SD 1.75, CI 95% ±0.99). No significant correlation was found between content accuracy and the mean reading grade or Google rank (r = 0.392, P = .207 and r = 0.133, P = .732, respectively). Without including PubMed, only one website achieved the full 4 JAMA benchmarks. There was no correlation between the accuracy of the content of the website and JAMA benchmarks (r = 0.344, P = .273). The interobserver reproducibility was similar among 3 out of 4 observers (r = 0.747 between JS and NT, r = 0.643 between JS and NP, r = 0.686 between NP and NT, r = 0.581 between JS and NY; P ≤ 0.05). Conclusion and Relevance: The freely available information online on age-related macular degeneration varies by source but is generally of low quality. The material presented is difficult to interpret and exceeds the recommended reading level for health information. Most websites reviewed did not provide sufficient information using the grading scheme we used to support the patient in making medical decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-405
Number of pages6
JournalSeminars in Ophthalmology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-related macular degeneration retina online health information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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