It's Judgment Day for Hospital Websites

Cheryl Clark, August 22, 2013

Not only are hospitals' quality metrics under tight review by payers, but now the honesty and relevance of their websites' claims and content is getting scrutinized.

The funny, if not shameful, thing about most hospitals' websites is how little they reveal about the quality and safety of care their patients receive. These portals could boast, say, their organization's specifics in preventing readmissions or infections, or how well patients scored their acute care experience.

But no. With a few hours spent browsing around, one realizes that what most of these platforms display are mere bromides and platitudes, even links to the area weather report. Many boast the hospital is "state-of-the-art," whatever that means, or that quality "is the cornerstone of everything we do," or "our mission is to offer healthcare services with compassion and dignity," or that the ER "provides 24-hour emergency services."

My pet peeve is when a hospital uses a third of its home page real estate for photos—not of the hospital's own, living, hard-working doctors, nurses and other members of the team—but instead wastes space with stock images of unrealistically beautiful, often even sexy, models wearing V-neck scrubs cut just low enough.

Now, a reality check on all of this banal puffery has finally arrived. And none too soon. Not only are hospitals' quality metrics under tighter review by payers, the honesty and relevance of their websites' claims and content is now getting scrutinized too.

This week, the employer-based Leapfrog Group, which last year started doling out hospital safety scores from A-F, and the accreditation program URAC announced their joint 2013 Hospital Website Transparency Awards. The idea is to applaud those hospitals that have begun to use their sites for real information and education rather than disingenuous hype. And by omission, Leapfrog and URAC hope to shine a light on those who don't.


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