Do the leading children's hospitals have quality web sites? A description of children's hospital web sites

Terry Kind, Kathryn L Wheeler, Byanqa Robinson, Michael D Cabana
Journal of Medical Internet Research 2004 June 25, 6 (2): e20

BACKGROUND: Although leading children's hospitals are recognized as preeminent in the provision of health care to children, the quality of their Web sites has not been described.

OBJECTIVE: To describe technical characteristics of the Web sites of leading children's hospitals.

METHODS: This is a cross-sectional descriptive infodemiology study. Two reviewers independently reviewed and analyzed the Web sites of 26 nationally prominent children's hospitals in June 2003, using objective criteria based on accessibility (based on age and language), attribution, completeness, credibility, currency, disclosure, readability, and other technical elements.

RESULTS: One-third of Web sites included content for children and adolescents. Twenty-four (92%) of the Web sites had health and disease-specific information. One-third contained only English, while two-thirds included other languages. All 26 Web sites included a disclaimer, although none had a requirement to read the disclaimer before accessing health and disease specific information. Twenty-four (92%) had search options. Although most (85%) listed a copyright date, only 10% listed the date last updated.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to examine the Web sites of leading children's hospitals. Although the Web sites were designed for children's hospitals, only a few sites included content for children and adolescents. Primary care physicians who refer patients to these sites should be aware that many have limited content for children, and should assess them for other limitations, such as inconsistent documentation of disclaimers or failure to show the date of the last Web site update. These Web sites are a potentially useful source of patient information. However, as the public increasingly looks to the Internet for health information, children's hospitals need to keep up with increasingly high standards and demands of health-care consumers.

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