J Am Med Inform Assoc 9:403-405 doi:10.1197/jamia.M1131
  • Letter to the Editor

In reply

  1. Don Fallis,
  2. Martin Frické
  1. Affiliation of the authors: University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  1. Correspondence and reprints: Don Fallis, PhD, School of Information Resources and Library Science, University of Arizona, 1515 East First Street, Tucson, AZ 85719; e-mail: <fallis{at}>
  • Received 25 March 2002
  • Accepted 2 April 2002

In reply:—We appreciate this opportunity to clarify the methodology and conclusions of our paper “Indicators of Accuracy of Consumer Health Information on the Internet,”1 in response to the letter from Drs. Carroll, Saluja, and Tarczy-Hornoch.

Carroll et al. may be correct that consulting a physician is the best way for people to obtain accurate health information. However, the reality is that millions of people are using the Internet to obtain health information.2 And it is unlikely that they are restricting themselves to sites “run by large professional or governmental organizations.” In addition, the information that consumers find on the Internet frequently has an effect on treatment decisions.2

Given that people are using the Internet to obtain health information, it seems reasonable to provide them with guidelines for evaluating this information. Furthermore, such guidelines should be empirically grounded. A number of individuals and organizations have published guidelines for evaluating the quality of health information on the Internet.3 However, at the time we began our study, no empirical work had been done to test these guidelines. In other words, no one had checked to see whether any of the proposed indicators of accuracy really are indicators of accuracy.

Since ours was one of the first empirical studies to test these guidelines, we would not want to …

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