Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The quality of health information on the internet

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 09 March 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:557

Rapid Response:

Acceptance of websites as references by peer reviewed journals.

Editor-We read with interest the editorial by Purcell et al(1) on the
quality of healthcare information available to patients on the internet.
Healthcare professionals increasingly rely on websites as a source of
information. A possible guide to the quality of information on a
particular site is the acceptance of that site as a reference in an
article in a peer reviewed journal.

We recently surveyed major surgical journals(2) to establish how they
view the use of websites as references. The majority were happy to accept
the use of websites without restriction. However, a few journals were
concerned about the dynamic nature of websites allowing their content to
be changed at a later date. A good previous record or belonging to a
credible organisation were criteria deemed necessary by other editors.

There was no uniform opinion across the journals surveyed. Further
clarity is needed on the issue of websites as references. Defining a
quality standard for such sites is going to be difficult and the use of
any information obtained is best left to the judgement of the individual.

1 Purcell GP, Wilson P, Delamothe T. The quality of health
information on the internet. BMJ 2002:324;557-558

2 White N and Hettiaratchy S. Do websites make suitable references?
Ann R Coll Surg Eng (Suppl) 2001; 83: 169.

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 March 2002
Nicholas White
Senior House Officer
Shehan Hettiaratchy
Department of Plastic Surgery, Charing Cross Hospital, London W6 8RF