Critical analysis of the quality of internet resources for patients with varicose veins

Qi Yan, Alyssa R. Field, Katherine J. Jensen, Christian Goei, Zheng Jiang, Mark G. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Patients increasingly seek information on their medical conditions from the internet. The present study evaluated the quality and readability of readily available online patient resources for varicose veins. Methods: An internet search for “varicose veins” was conducted using the meta-search engines Yippy and Dogpile and the general search engines Google, Yahoo, and Bing with a cleared-cache web browser in July 2019. Two trained raters scored the websites separately on the dimensions of accessibility, accountability, interactivity, structure, and content. Any discrepancies were discussed, and a consensus was reached. Readability was calculated using four readability metric systems. Rater consistency was evaluated using kappa, weighted kappa, and interrater correlation coefficient, as indicated. Results: A total of 189 websites met the inclusion criteria. The total median quality score was 15.6 (interquartile range [IQR], 13.1-20.5; range, 7.4-31.3) of 38. The websites scored a median of 4 (IQR, 1-8) of 15 for accountability, 2 (IQR, 2-2) of 5 for interactivity, 4 (IQR, 2-4) of 4 for organization, and 6.4 (IQR, 3.9-7.9) of 14 for weighted content. Most websites (81.5%) were accessible. However, the overall readability was poor. The median Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score was 55.1 (IQR, 49.4-6.7), indicating that the text was fairly difficult to read. The median grade level was 10th grade using both the Flesch-Kincaid grade level and simple measure of the Gobbledygook index and 11th to 12th grade using the new Dale-Chall readability formula. Government websites were the most accountable, featured the best content, and were the most readable. The website traffic had a positive, nonlinear correlation with the total score and a negative, nonlinear correlation with the website rank (or position on the search result page). Website rank correlated negatively with the total score, although the correlation was weak. Conclusions: The quality of the online patient resources on varicose veins varies greatly, and the readability for most sites is poor. Government-sponsored websites had the highest quality and were the most readable. Physicians are advised to consider providing a list of appropriate websites to their patients to better inform them, avoid confusion, and ensure appropriate delivery of accurate and readable information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1024.e7
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery: Venous and Lymphatic Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Internet web resources
  • Patient information
  • Varicose veins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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