Proceed with Caution: A Report on the Quality of Health Information on the Internet

RAND Health

This study is the first comprehensive evaluation of the quality, accessibility, and readability of health information on English- and Spanish-language Web sites and search engines.

May 2001

In 2001, nearly 100 million Americans went online in search of health-related information, and more than 70% said online health information had influenced a decision about their treatment. At that time, little was known about whether the information on the Web was sufficiently complete and accurate to support consumer decision-making.

In response to these concerns, in 2001 RAND Health conducted a comprehensive study to describe and evaluate health information available on the Internet. The study was the first to evaluate both English- and Spanish-language search engines and Web sites.

The Report Summary includes highlights of the study’s methods, key findings, and recommendations for consumers, health Web sites, providers, policymakers, and consumer advocacy groups. A more detailed description and additional data can be found in the Complete Study. The Chart Pack contains overview graphics of the study. In addition, an article based on this study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The Report Summary, Complete Study, and Chart Pack are available under Document Downloads below.

The JAMA article can be found on JAMA’s Web site listed under External Links below.