California Hospital Web Sites Have Limitations, Study Says
Although most California hospitals maintain Web sites, the sites are often difficult to locate and provide "inconsistent and underdeveloped" content, according to a review of more than 200 California acute care hospital Web sites in this month's Western Journal of Medicine. In addition, the study found that most sites did not offer certain patient care services, such as online scheduling. Researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles searched for Web sites for each of the 390 licensed hospitals in California over a six-week period in 1999. Internet search engines identified Web sites for 242 hospitals; 222 of those sites were functioning and were analyzed by the researchers. Although the hospitals' online services varied widely, 93% provided basic contact information, 65% offered mission statements and 48% provided insurance information. Sixty-eight percent of Web sites offered some health information, and 48% offered links to health information on other sites. Preventive health information was most common, while information about specific health services was "limited." Only 21% of Web sites provided JCAHO accreditation information, and 36% provided other quality measures. Finally, few sites offered interactive, patient-centered functions. For example, only 11% allowed patients to make appointments online, and 5% allowed users to create online health profiles. Researchers concluded that consumers should be wary of depending on hospital Web sites as a medical resource because of their limitations. They did note, however, that hospital Web site offerings could change in the future, and that their findings might not be applicable to all hospitals (Zingmond et al., December 2001).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.