Evaluating asthma websites using the brief DISCERN instrument

Nancy Cantey Banasiak, Mikki Meadows-Oliver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to examine the quality of sponsored and unsponsored asthma websites using the Brief DISCERN instrument and to evaluate whether the Health On the Net Code of Conduct (HONcode) logo was present, thereby indicating that the site met the criteria. The Internet is an important source of health information for patients and their families. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the quality of sponsored and unsupported asthma websites. A secondary aim was to determine the readability and reading ease of the materials for each website along with the grade level. Methods: We queried seven Internet search engines using the keyword “asthma.” The websites were evaluated using the six-item Brief DISCERN instrument and by ascertaining whether the HON code quality label was present. The websites were also evaluated for readability employing Flesch-Kincaid grade level and Flesch reading ease tools using Microsoft Office Word 2013 software. Results: A total of 22 unique websites were included in the study. Approximately 68% of the websites reviewed had a Brief DISCERN cutoff score of ≥16. The overall Brief DISCERN scores ranged from 6 to 30, and the mean score was 17.32 (SD = 6.71). The Flesch-Kincaid grade level scores ranged from 2.9 to 15.4, and the average reading grade score was 9.49 (SD = 2.7). The Flesch reading ease scores ranged from 17 to 82.7, with a mean reading ease score of 53.57 (SD = 15.03). Sites with a HONcode quality label had significantly higher Brief DISCERN scores than those without one (t=2.3795; df=20; p=0.02). Conclusion: Brief DISCERN scores revealed that there is quality asthma information for children and their families available on the Internet. The grade level ranged between 2.9 and 15.4 among the websites. However, the mean grade level scores were 9.3-9.89, which is high for the average consumer. Access to accurate information via the Internet, with appropriate readability, may enable pediatric asthma patients and their caregivers to better control and manage asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-196
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Asthma and Allergy
StatePublished - Jun 16 2017


  • Asthma
  • Internet
  • Patient education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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