To categorise the content and assess the quality and readability of the online information regarding the treatment for oral leukoplakia.
An online search using the term 'leukoplakia treatment' was carried out on 8th June 2015 using the Google search engine. The content, quality and readability of the first 100 sites were explored. The quality of the web information was assessed using the following tools, the DISCERN instrument and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmarks for website analysis and the HON seal. Readability was assessed via the Flesch Reading Ease Score.
The search strategy generated 357 000 sites on the Google search engine. Due to duplicate links, non-operating links and irrelevant links, a total of 47 of the first 100 websites were included in this study. The mean overall rating achieved by included websites using the DISCERN instrument was 2.3. With regard to the JAMA benchmarks, the vast majority of examined websites (95.7%) completely fulfilled the disclosure benchmark and less than 50% of included websites met the three remaining criteria. A mean total readability score of 47.5 was recorded with almost 90% of websites having a readability level ranging from fairly difficult to very difficult.
Based on this study, the online health information regarding oral leukoplakia has challenging readability with content of questionable accuracy. As patients often search for health information online, it would be prudent for clinicians to highlight the caution with which online information should be interpreted.