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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 45 (2003) 12, 805 - 813


The Internet and Psychiatry

G. van Asten, G. Pieters, S. Joos

background The Internet has become an increasingly important source of information about health problems. The information is used not only by health professionals but also by patients and their families. There has been very little research into the quality and accuracy of the information provided, especially when this is in Dutch.
aim To evaluate the quality of information on Dutch-language websites relating to depression, to identify potential quality indicators and to develop guidelines for the reliable integration of website information in psychiatric health care.
method On the basis of 40 criteria, 34 Dutch-language 'depression-sites' were evaluated with regard to the quality of the information they give about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of depression. results The information provided is generally of good quality, but too often it comprises little more than the elementary criteria set out in the dsm-iv-tr. The information supplied is rarely presented in broader and therapeutic context. Whereas bibliographic references and the naming of sources can be regarded as a parameter for quality in the traditional medical literature, this probably is not the case with respect to websites relating to depression. Websites supported by health care professionals provide the best quality of information.
conclusion Health care professionals are right to refer patients and their families to Dutch-language websites for more information about depression, provided this information is presented in a broader, therapeutic context. The websites of choice should be those containing information supplied by health professionals.

keywords depression, internet, quality of information, website