Public Reporting of Hospital Infection Rates: Ranking the States on Report and Website Content, Credibility, and Usability (WP-13-06)
Ava Amini, David Birnbaum, Bernard Black, and David Hyman
Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) kill about 100,000 people annually; most are preventable, but many hospitals have not aggressively addressed the problem. In response, 25 states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services require public reporting of hospital infection rates for at least some types of infections, and other states and private entities are implementing such reporting. The websites and related reports vary widely in ease of access, ease of use, usefulness of information, timeliness of updates, and credibility. This working paper reports on work in progress, in which the authors assess the quality and suitability of different state websites and reports for different target audiences (ordinary consumers, physicians, and infection control professionals) and the extent to which they meet best practices for online communication, including Stanford’s "Fogg" Guidelines for Web Credibility and user-friendliness metrics developed by other researchers. The authors find wide variation in quality, and substantial correlation between measures of website credibility and user-friendliness. They identify ways to improve usability, usefulness, and tailoring for information to different target audiences. The analysis suggests that the "one website (and report format) fits all users" model may not work well in delivering complex, technical information to users with widely varying needs and sophistication.