Rating information on the internet can empower users to make informed decisionsBMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7206.385b (Published 07 August 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:385
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Eysenbach argues that using a rating system to evaluate the quality
of information on the Internet could help to empower users to make
informed decisions.(1) Any initiatives to reassure end users of the
quality and accuracy of information are to be welcomed, but the
development of such rating systems may be a necessary but insufficient
condition for promoting the use of quality controlled information from
the Internet in decision making. Systems will only be effective if
firstly they establish credibility with the professional community and
patient groups, and secondly generate sufficient awareness and interest to
be used in practice.
Even if evaluations of information resources are distributed on the
Internet, using a system such as MedPics (2) this does not infer that this
information will actually be used to inform decision making in everyday
settings. Physicians are unlikely to fully understand how such ratings
systems work, and may be hard pressed to find sufficient time to become
familiar with systems and also identify relevant information of interest.
Effective dissemination and assimilation of knowledge is not a
passive process but actively involves developing linkages and facilitating
communication between those providing information and potential end
users.(3) Information specialists may be required who can act as
'knowledge brokers', identifying information resources, making judgements
on the validity of the source and rating, and then communicating this to
the end user.
These knowledge brokers are best placed to provide both
professionals, patients and caregivers with information on how specific
rating systems have been constructed and the quality control criteria that
have been used. They can also help to diffuse information on the effective
use of the Internet among the medical community. Professionals,including
the non computer literate, are then more likely to be empowered to make
informed judgements on the relevance and accuracy of information obtained
from the Internet.
The English Department of Health has recently announced that all
general practitioners will be provided with desktop computers, providing
access to e-mail and health information on-line through the GP Net
programme. (4) This may present an excellent opportunity to introduce and
evaluate the impact of rating systems. The effectiveness and impact of
physician access to information specialists, who would retreive resources
and explain the methods used for rating information could also be
1) Eysenbach G Rating information on the Internet can empower users
to make informed decisions. BMJ 1999; 319:385
2) Eysenbach G, Diepgen TL. Towards quality management of medical
information on the Internet: evaluation, labelling, and filtering of
information. BMJ 1998; 317: 1496-1502
3) Lomas J. Diffusion, dissemination and implementation: who should
do what? Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1993 703:226-37
4) Department of Health. 'Doctor desktop' computers plan will boost
support to GPs. Department of Health Press Release 1999/0476 30 July
Competing interests: No competing interests