Not long ago, if you were reading an article of this type, it was safe to assume that you were holding a printed journal. Today, while some readers might have a document in hand, many are sitting in front of a computer monitor, and still others are reading on a smartphone, tablet, or other wireless device. Accordingly, as paper is replaced by pixels, readers around the world can readily access their reading material at the point of need. Yet this foray into the digital domain does not represent unalloyed progress: the Internet has provided everyone with a printing press, allowing experts, quacks, and all those in between the ability to publish medical material with at least a veneer of authority. Thus, the challenge for the consumer is not so much to find some medical information, but to find valid, trusted, and pertinent medical information1.
This challenge is especially daunting, given the size of the World Wide Web. For example, a keyword search of “carpal tunnel syndrome” in PubMed returns less than 8000 entries (as of October 2011), whereas the same search in Google finds more than 12.3 million results. Beredjiklian et al.2 evaluated the quality of information regarding carpal tunnel syndrome on the Internet and found that 23% of web sites offered unconventional or misleading information, and the mean informational value of the web sites was 28.4 of a possible 100 points. Likewise, Labovitch et al.3 examined Internet sources regarding minimally invasive hip arthroplasty and found information that was often “misleading and of poor quality.”
In response, new models for obtaining information have been created. Web sites of well-respected organizations such as the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) aggregate material and post commentaries. Web 2.0 technologies4, including forums, blogs, and social networks, allow …
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