Patients Need Counseling on Internet Use for TURP Information

Jill Stein

March 23, 2011

March 23, 2011 (Vienna, Austria) — Clinicians need to help direct their patients undergoing transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) toward Internet sites that provide high-quality information, according to data released here at the European Association of Urology 26th Annual Congress.

A.K. Kar, MD, from St. Mary's Hospital in London, United Kingdom, and colleagues evaluated 45 Web sites that provide information on TURP.

The group focused on Web sites that commonly appeared when they entered the word "TURP" in the search bar of Google, Yahoo, and MSN/Bing — the 3 most popular search engines.

Research has shown that 61% of patients use the Internet as a major resource for medical information, Dr. Kar said. However, despite the vast amount of medical information available online, experts are increasingly questioning the quality of Web-site-based medical information.

He also noted that the "Googling" of symptoms has been shown to be beneficial for rare childhood diseases, but unhelpful for genitourinary disorders.

The British group decided to evaluate Internet information on TURP because the procedure is extremely common and has long been recognized as the "gold standard" treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy.

They used 2 tools to assess readability: the Gunning-Fog Index (GFI), which measures the years of schooling needed to understand the readability of English writing; and the Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES), which looks at how easy text is to read.

Results showed that the mean GFI score for readability was 10.9 (standard deviation, 2.6), indicating that the average TURP Web site was at a reading level that is similar to that of Time or Newsweek.

The mean FRES score was 56.9 (standard deviation, 14.1), which is below the universally encouraged target of 60 to 70.

Notably, the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) Web site, which is a recognized source for online patient information in the United Kingdom, was not among the most popular searches and is not certified by the Health on the Net Foundation Code of Conduct. The code of conduct for medical Web sites addresses the reliability and credibility of online medical information.

The researchers used LIDA, an online validated instrument developed to evaluate the accessibility, usability, and reliability of healthcare Web sites, to rate the Web sites. The LIDA score for the mean of all Web sites examined was 65.7%, whereas it was 89% for the BAUS Web site.

Dr. Kar emphasized that physicians need to steer patients receiving TURP toward specific portals that provide reliable information, such as the BAUS Web site.

It is particularly important that they not exclude elderly patients in their counseling, he added. Research has shown that, contrary to popular opinion, age does not affect Internet health-seeking behavior.

Dr. Kar has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

European Association of Urology (EAU) 26th Annual Congress: Abstract 14. Presented March 19, 2011.