Users will not trust a web site if it does not have a clear quality control policy (ref 1) and surprisingly few do. We know that poor quality research is subject to bias and, in some cases, this has led to ineffective or harmful interventions. Web sites don’t just have to ensure that they are reliable, they have to show how they produce their content so that users can develop a sense of trust in them.
In an increasingly litigious climate, senior managers of health care organisations should minimise their own risk by insisting that all of their web site content is produced in a systematic and robust way.
Top 10 tips for improving the reliability of your web site
- Make sure that you have a clear statement about who runs the site and how it’s funded. This should include a declaration of the objectives of the people who run the site.
- If your site features health information you should tell your visitors how you produce it. A clear content production methodology is essential!
- Your methodology should be transparent and robust (e.g. systematic literature searching, critical appraisal, reviewed by experts etc.)
- Show how you identified your audience needs in advance and then involved users in the production of content.
- Provide information about the independent experts who review the content of your site.
- Make sure that your users can check your source material. If you have written a summary of a health intervention, provide them with the references that you used so they can read the research for themselves.
- Keep your site up-to-date. Information on health treatments should be updated at least every 6 months.
- Provide your visitors with feedback forms so that they can comment on your web site content.
- Make sure that your content ‘checks-out’ with current best practice. This could help avoid pesky legal action from irate users!
- Remember, you can have the most accessible and usable web site in the world, but if it’s unreliable you are risking more than your reputation!
- Purcell GP, Wilson P, Delamothe T. The quality of health information on the internet. BMJ 2002;324:557-8.