A comparative study recently analyzed websites for hospitals located in Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and found that most do not meet the requirements of the “Web Accessibility Test” (TAW), an online tool that reports on the accessibility of a website and determines, for instance, if the web design is suitable for persons with a disability.
“Webmasters should take appropriate measures to solve this problem,” according to José Joaquín Mira Solves, work coordinator and professor of the Department of Health Psychology at the UMH. The psychologist explained that the TAW test is based on the criteria recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international organization that monitors the standardization and functioning of the Web.
Mr Mira Solves also stressed the need to create communication channels to enhance user interaction with the hospital, as none of the Spanish hospital websites analysed included a user form for requesting information by Internet or e-mail.
Another recommendation was to provide some indication of when the pages were created and “something as simple,” according to the researcher, as putting the date when the information is updated. The website should also indicate hospital quality data, e.g., ISO or EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) standards, satisfaction survey results, or patient quality commitments.
Suggesting potential areas for improvement was one of the objectives of the study, which looked at the portals of 32 hospitals: 10 in Great Britain, 10 in the U.S. and 12 in Spain. The hospitals are specifically named in the publication to protect their identity, according to Mr. Mira Solves, who explained that “the purpose of this work was not to rank hospitals.”
Thirty-two hospitals were randomly selected from among those with the highest scores in the classification systems of each country. In the U.S., the “Top American Hospitals” was used, whereas in Spain the study used the “Hospitales Top 20” of 2004, an initiative involving voluntary participation by 155 Spanish National Health System centres and private hospitals.
Websites that do not report on job vacancies
The study also found that only 8% of Spanish hospital websites report on job vacancies, whereas 100% of hospital centres in the U.S. and Great Britain do provide such information. The lack of information on job opportunities on Spanish websites may be related to their communication policies, which are “less likely to focus on social marketing and, therefore, have a distinct concept of how to use the communication channels,” stated Mira Solves.
The researchers measured the quality and user orientation of the information provided on the websites by using the “Hospital Centre E-information Quality Scale”, which assesses the presence or absence of 66 elements and their percentage of compliance. According to this scale, Spanish hospital websites obtained an average score of 47 points, compared with 50 for the American hospitals and 54 for the British. The percentage of quality criteria with no score was 6% for Spain, 11% for the United Kingdom, and 12% for the U.S.
In addition, the study found that Spanish hospital websites report in 83% of scientific journal publications for their professionals, whereas only 20% of the U.S. hospitals do so. In terms of readability, measured using several indexes (Flesch and Fernández Huerta), the texts included in the Spanish hospital pages presented a “standard average” ease of reading, a score not attained by any of the U.S. hospitals and only three of the British sites. None of the Spanish websites visited scored low in comprehension, whereas 10% of British sites and 50% of U.S. sites would be hard to read.
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