The accuracy and completeness of drug information in Google snippet blocks
Keywords:Internet, pharmacists, drug information, patient care, search engine
Introduction: Consumers commonly use the Internet for immediate drug information. In 2014, Google introduced the snippet block to programmatically search available websites to answer a question entered into the search engine without the need for the user to enter any websites. This study compared the accuracy and completeness of drug information found in Google snippet blocks to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) medication guides.
Methods: Ten outpatient drugs were selected from the 2018 Clinical Drugstats Database Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Six questions in the medication guide for each drug were entered into the Google search engine to find the snippet block. The accuracy and completeness of drug information in the Google snippet block were quantified by two different pharmacists using a scoring system of 1 (less than 25% accurate/complete information) to 5 (100% accurate/complete information). Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the scores.
Results: For five out of the six questions, the information in the Google snippets had less than 50% accuracy and completeness compared to the medication guides. The average accuracy and completeness scores of the Google snippets were highest for “What are the ingredients of [the drug]?” with scores of 3.38 (51–75%) and 3.00 (51–75%), respectively. The question on “How to take [drug]?” had the lowest score with averages of 1.00 (<25%) for both accuracy and completeness.
Conclusion: Google snippets provide inaccurate and incomplete drug information when compared to FDA-approved drug medication guides. This aspect may cause patient harm; therefore, it is imperative for health care and health information professionals to provide reliable drug resources to patients and consumers if written information may be needed.
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