DARTS a valuable concise method to evaluate health information online

Dr Shock
February 26, 2009

health information online

The web is often used to find medical information. An increasing number of individuals, companies and other stakeholders have their own websites. The content of these websites is largely unregulated and the enquirer has no way of telling whether the information is reliable. This makes it impossible to make an informed decision. The information found can be unreliable, unbalanced, wrong and misleading.

A short tool such as DARTS may serve as a valuable reminder to patients to assess information quality when accessing online medicines information. Due to the concise nature of the DARTS tool it may be more user-friendly than other quality assessment tools.

Many Internet users use the Internet for health related purposes, according to a recent study conducted in seven European countries, 71% of Internet users had used the Internet for health purposes.
Existing tools to evaluate online health information are hard to use by Internet users, they are too complicated and consumers may lack understanding, time, energy and interest to use these tools in practice. That way it is hard to find accurate and high quality medicines information for those seeking this kind of information on the Internet. It is difficult for consumers to access good quality health information

In a recent published research patients with depression were chosen to investigate the use of a simple quality assessment tool for the investigation of the role of the Internet as a source of information about antidepressants.

The aim of this study

The aims of this study were to investigate how people with depression assess the quality of online medicines information and to study their perceptions of the DARTS tool.

This tool is called DARTS. It comes down to the answers to 5 questions of which DARTS is an acronym:

  • Date, when was the information updated/
  • Author, who is the writer? Is he/she qualified?
  • Reference, are the references and sources of content valid?
  • Type, what is the purpose of the site?
  • Sponsor, is the site sponsored and, if so, by whom?

How was this study done?

Twenty-nine Internet users with depression from the capital area volunteered to participate in the study (26 female, 3 male). Six focus group discussions (67–109 min duration) were conducted across metropolitan Helsinki between February and April 2007. The same independent moderator conducted all focus groups and ensured all participants had an equal opportunity to engage in the discussion. Two assisting researchers observed and took notes. After obtaining written informed consent from all participants, each focus group was digitally audiotaped. Participants also completed a short survey instrument to gather demographic data and details about previous Internet usage. Data were collected and analysed until saturation was received: the same themes emerged recurrently, and no new ideas were provided.

Results

  • Participants did not systematically assess the quality of the information obtained.
  • No participants were familiar with previously developed quality assessment tools.
  • Participants were however, concerned about not being properly able to assess the quality of online medicines information.
  • Most participants believed that the DARTS tool would assist them to discriminate between high and low quality online medicines information.
  • Perceived strengths of the DARTS tool were its short length, concise nature and coverage of relevant issues.
  • Participants stated that the DARTS tool could be disseminated via magazines, pharmacies, physicians’ offices, the Internet, mental health care clinics, pharmaceutical company websites, libraries, schools, universities and campaigns on television.

Disadvantages of DARTS:

Disadvantages perceived by the participants included that DARTS would be too time-consuming to use in practice, that the criteria required further explanation to be properly useable, and that the DARTS criteria should be in your head and not on paper.

Related post on this blog:
Assess Health Information Online

ResearchBlogging.org
Ulla Närhi, Marika Pohjanoksa-Mäntylä, Anna Karjalainen, Johanna K. Saari, Hannes Wahlroos, Marja S. Airaksinen, Simon J. Bell (2008). The DARTS tool for assessing online medicines information Pharmacy World & Science, 30 (6), 898-906 DOI: 10.1007/s11096-008-9249-9

 

3 Responses to “DARTS a valuable concise method to evaluate health information online”

  1. Nice to be able to put a name to items I mostly check when reading. But isn’t answerings these questions in a correct way dependant on deeper knowledge, i.e. ‘what’ is a good reference, when is something ‘old’? Is just being able to put a stamp (he/she is a doctor, it’s 1 year old, it’s referenced etc.) on the DARTS items enough? If not, I myself, as a non-scientist, would still be dependant on that knowledge to assess information. Let’s hope such an acronym is a way of getting people to learn about those things or that research will indicate that ‘throwing DARTS’ will in itself increase the quality of accepted materials.

    For now I’m still thinking good information especially needs a good amount of time.

  2. Bram on February 26th, 2009 at 3:15 pm
  3. @Bram That’s why an About page is very important and you can always google info about a certain company website author, kind regards Dr Shock

  4. Dr Shock on February 26th, 2009 at 6:36 pm
  5. DARTS is a valuable departure point, but should also include the follow up question of: do I know enough to evaluate the above or is more reading required. The trained are on occasion fooled ( think, THE LANCET, Wakefield, MMR ), there are credible, on paper trained people out there promoting non mainstream fallacious ideas, the popular press frequently get things wrong or emphasize the unimportant, and many ( probably the majority ) of the general populace do not know enough to evaluate without substantial disciplined reading, which, by observation, most are incapable of doing sufficiently well to be truly meaningful . However, generally, the more a patient knows, the better the co-operation and results, so the exercise is meaningful. Medicine is still practiced as a partial art form, because no amount of evidence, or book learning, substitutes completely for experience and learning in a clinical setting. As previously noted, there are no shortcuts and it is a time consuming process.

  6. Ross Miles on February 26th, 2009 at 8:07 pm
  1. Nice to be able to put a name to items I mostly check when reading. But isn’t answerings these questions in a correct way dependant on deeper knowledge, i.e. ‘what’ is a good reference, when is something ‘old’? Is just being able to put a stamp (he/she is a doctor, it’s 1 year old, it’s referenced etc.) on the DARTS items enough? If not, I myself, as a non-scientist, would still be dependant on that knowledge to assess information. Let’s hope such an acronym is a way of getting people to learn about those things or that research will indicate that ‘throwing DARTS’ will in itself increase the quality of accepted materials.

    For now I’m still thinking good information especially needs a good amount of time.

  2. Bram on February 26th, 2009 at 3:15 pm
  3. @Bram That’s why an About page is very important and you can always google info about a certain company website author, kind regards Dr Shock

  4. Dr Shock on February 26th, 2009 at 6:36 pm
  5. DARTS is a valuable departure point, but should also include the follow up question of: do I know enough to evaluate the above or is more reading required. The trained are on occasion fooled ( think, THE LANCET, Wakefield, MMR ), there are credible, on paper trained people out there promoting non mainstream fallacious ideas, the popular press frequently get things wrong or emphasize the unimportant, and many ( probably the majority ) of the general populace do not know enough to evaluate without substantial disciplined reading, which, by observation, most are incapable of doing sufficiently well to be truly meaningful . However, generally, the more a patient knows, the better the co-operation and results, so the exercise is meaningful. Medicine is still practiced as a partial art form, because no amount of evidence, or book learning, substitutes completely for experience and learning in a clinical setting. As previously noted, there are no shortcuts and it is a time consuming process.

  6. Ross Miles on February 26th, 2009 at 8:07 pm
  1. Nice to be able to put a name to items I mostly check when reading. But isn’t answerings these questions in a correct way dependant on deeper knowledge, i.e. ‘what’ is a good reference, when is something ‘old’? Is just being able to put a stamp (he/she is a doctor, it’s 1 year old, it’s referenced etc.) on the DARTS items enough? If not, I myself, as a non-scientist, would still be dependant on that knowledge to assess information. Let’s hope such an acronym is a way of getting people to learn about those things or that research will indicate that ‘throwing DARTS’ will in itself increase the quality of accepted materials.

    For now I’m still thinking good information especially needs a good amount of time.

  2. Bram on February 26th, 2009 at 3:15 pm
  3. @Bram That’s why an About page is very important and you can always google info about a certain company website author, kind regards Dr Shock

  4. Dr Shock on February 26th, 2009 at 6:36 pm
  5. DARTS is a valuable departure point, but should also include the follow up question of: do I know enough to evaluate the above or is more reading required. The trained are on occasion fooled ( think, THE LANCET, Wakefield, MMR ), there are credible, on paper trained people out there promoting non mainstream fallacious ideas, the popular press frequently get things wrong or emphasize the unimportant, and many ( probably the majority ) of the general populace do not know enough to evaluate without substantial disciplined reading, which, by observation, most are incapable of doing sufficiently well to be truly meaningful . However, generally, the more a patient knows, the better the co-operation and results, so the exercise is meaningful. Medicine is still practiced as a partial art form, because no amount of evidence, or book learning, substitutes completely for experience and learning in a clinical setting. As previously noted, there are no shortcuts and it is a time consuming process.

  6. Ross Miles on February 26th, 2009 at 8:07 pm

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