Google search no guarantee for health data accuracy
Google is arguably the closest to achieving divine status and world domain-ation as a corporation can get, but even the idolized Internet giant reveals traces of its humanity from time to time, as a recent study on pediatrics suggests.
The study, published in a July issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, appears to have Google mapped the search engine’s Achilles heel, and it is pinpointed on the imperfections of Web site data regarding safe infant sleep recommendations.
Researchers entered 13 key phrases pertaining to infant sleep safety, and then analyzed a total of 1,300 Web sites found through Google search. Less than half (43.5 percent) of the sites listed contained infant sleep safety information that reflects American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations.
[See also: Google focus on healthcare.]
According to researchers, however, these inaccuracies are no fault of Google’s, but rather rest on the numerous Web sites that are presenting viewers with this information.
“Google is just the hosting site, or server rather. They don’t have any control over what’s being posted on the sites that come up in their search engines, so it’s the responsibility of whoever is creating the Web page,” said Brandi Joyner, co-researcher of the study and clinical research coordinator at the Children’s National Medical Center.
Other institutions involved in the study include the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Some of the sites with inaccuracies include the popular eHow.com and About.com, which researchers say typically enlist the expertise of professionals for article topics. Much to the surprise of researchers, however, these sites contained “frequently inaccurate information” pertaining to safe infant sleep, according to AAP recommendations.
[See also: Google Health relaunches, targets wellness audience.]
According to the study, retail product reviews sites, blogs, and personal sites had the highest rates of inaccurate data. Moreover, many of these retail product review sites actually claimed certain products were AAP-endorsed when, in fact, they were not.
Web sites with consistently accurate data included government sites (80.9 percent accurate) followed by organization sites (72.5 percent accurate). “Most of the sites ending in .org, .state or .gov had the most accurate information,” Joyner added.
One inaccuracy encountered, for example, was the high number of sites that promoted parent-child bed sharing to help encourage breast-feeding, a highly controversial topic according to researchers, as some data suggests bed sharing may increase the infant’s risk for SIDS.