Background: eHealth-literate consumers, consumers able to navigate and filter credible information on the Internet, are an important cornerstone of sustainable health systems in the 21st century. Various checklists and tools for consumers to assess the quality of health information on the Internet have been proposed, but most fail to take into account the unique properties of a networked digital environment. Method: A new educational model and tool for assessing information on the Internet has been designed and pilot tested with consumers. The new proposed model replaces the “traditional” static questionnaire/checklist/ rating approach with a dynamic, process-oriented approach, which emphasizes three steps consumers should follow when navigating the Internet. FA4CT (or FACCCCT) is an acronym for these three steps: 1) Find Answers and Compare [information from different sources], 2) Check Credibility [of sources, if conflicting information is provided], 3) Check Trustworthiness (Reputation) [of sources, if conflicting information is provided]. In contrast to existing tools, the unit of evaluation is a “fact” (i.e. a health claim), rather than a webpage or website. Results: Formative evaluations and user testing suggest that the FA4CT model is a reliable, valid, and usable approach for consumers. Conclusion: The algorithm can be taught and used in educational interventions (“Internet schools” for consumers), but can also be a foundation for more sophisticated tools or portals, which automate the evaluation according to the FA4CT algorithm.
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