Googling preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes: A systematic review of patient information available on the internet

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Background: Preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes (PPROM) complicates 3% of pregnancies and is associated with an increased risk of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. In an attempt to better understand this diagnosis, patients routinely resort to the internet for medical information. The lack of governance online leaves patients at risk of relying on low-quality websites. Objectives: To assess systematically the accuracy, quality, readability and credibility of World Wide Web pages on PPROM. Search Strategy: Five search engines (Google, AOL, Yahoo, Ask and Bing) were searched with location services and browser history disabled. Websites from the first page of all searches were included. Selection Criteria: Websites were included if they provided at least 300 words of health information aimed at patients relating to PPROM. Data Collection and Analysis: Validated assessments of health information readability, credibility and quality were undertaken, as was an accuracy assessment. Pertinent facts for accuracy assessment were based on feedback from healthcare professionals and patients through a survey. Characteristics were tabulated. Main Results: In all, 39 websites were included, with 31 different texts. No pages were written with a reading age of 11 years or less, none were considered credible, and only three were high quality. An accuracy score of 50% or more was obtained by 45% of websites. Information that patients considered pertinent was not consistently reported. Conclusions: Search engines produce information on PPROM that is low quality, low accuracy and not credible. It is also difficult to read. This risks disempowerment. Healthcare professionals and researchers must consider how to ensure patients have access to information that they can recognise as high quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1298-1305
Number of pages8
JournalBJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number11
Early online date19 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


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