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Tinnitus is a prevalent and complex medical complaint often co-morbid with stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and cognitive or communication difficulties. Its chronicity places a major burden on primary and secondary healthcare services. In our recent national survey of General Practitioners (GPs) from across England, many reported that their awareness of tinnitus was limited and as a result were dissatisfied with the service they currently provide. GPs identified 10 online sources of information they currently use in clinical practice, but welcomed further concise and accurate information on tinnitus assessment and management. The purpose of this study was to assess the content, reliability, and quality of the information related to primary care tinnitus assessment and management on these 10 websites.
Tinnitus related content on each website was assessed using a summative content analysis approach. Reliability and quality of the information was assessed using the DISCERN questionnaire.
Quality of information was rated using the validated DISCERN questionnaire. Significant inter-rater reliability was confirmed by Kendall’s coefficient of concordance (Wt) which ranged from 0.48 to 0.92 across websites. The website Map of Medicine achieved the highest overall DISCERN score. However, for information on treatment choice, the British Tinnitus Association was rated best. Content analysis revealed that all websites lacked a number of details relating to either tinnitus assessment or management options.
No single website provides comprehensive information for GPs on tinnitus assessment and management and so GPs may need to refer to more than one if they want to maximise their coverage of the topic. From those preferred by GPs we recommend several specific websites as the current ‘best’ sources. Our findings should guide healthcare website providers to improve the quality and inclusiveness of the information they publish on tinnitus. In the case of one website, our preliminary findings are already doing so. Such developments will in turn help facilitate best practice in primary care.