Quality of health-related online search results

Brent Kitchens, Christopher A. Harle, Shengli Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations


Consumers are increasingly searching for health information online and using that information to inform their decisions and behavior. Because the negative consequences of basing decisions on inaccurate or untrustworthy health information may be particularly serious, it is important to understand the quality of online health information. This study empirically investigates the quality of health information that is returned by popular search engines when queried using a large, comprehensive set of health-related search terms. Findings indicate that a majority of such information returned by popular search engines is of a high quality but quality levels vary across different health topic areas. In particular, searches for terms related to preventive health and social health issues tend to produce lower quality results than terms related to diagnosis and treatment of physical disease or injury. While the overall prevalence of high quality information is greater than that of low quality, the observed variance across health-related terms has important implications for consumers, policy makers, health information providers, and search engines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-462
Number of pages9
JournalDecision Support Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Health search
  • Health website quality
  • Online information quality
  • Online medical information
  • Search quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Information Systems and Management

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