We live in a plugged-in society, spending an average of four hours a day on the Internet using our computers and mobile devices to browse some 555 million websites.
And as patients continue to take a more active role in their own healthcare, more are devoting at least part of their online time to visiting healthcare websites for trusted, up-to-date information. With more than 615,000 visits per month last year, RadiologyInfo.org, the RSNA-ACR (American College of Radiology) public information website, is the third most highly traveled healthcare website, according to the market research firm eBizMBA, Inc. The top two spots are held by WebMD and the Mayo Clinic website.
“RadiologyInfo.org is a tremendous resource and a valuable public service that provides people undergoing radiologic procedures and their families with knowledge and comfort,” said Geoffrey Rubin, M.D., co-chair of the RSNA-ACR Public Information Website Committee which oversees RadiologyInfo.org. “We have a singular focus on radiologic information that is unavailable on other websites.”
To ensure RadiologyInfo.org is keeping pace with the changing landscape of the online world—and the evolving needs of patients—the committee recently engaged a Chicago-area market research firm to conduct one-on-one usability testing of the website and focus group research on how people search out healthcare information.
“It’s important to check in and see how we’re doing,” said Elliot K. Fishman, M.D., co-chair of the RSNA-ACR Public Information Website Committee. “What we believe to be important as radiologists may not be what our patients think is important.”
Staying in tune with patient needs is especially critical as the website continues to build on its library of resources. Since RadiologyInfo.org was launched in 2000 with 18 descriptions of common radiologic procedures, the breadth and depth of the website have grown considerably. Today, the site covers more than 155 procedures, exams and disease topics—with others under development—and offers sections on patient safety, diseases/conditions and children’s procedures as well as a video and image library. A Spanish version of RadiologyInfo.org drew more than 1.8 million visits alone last year, and the site is mobile-optimized for tablets and smartphones.
New to the site is a Screening and Wellness section which offers readers an in-depth overview of screening exams, who should consider screening, how it’s performed, the benefits/risks, what happens if something is detected, and more. This section currently features lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer screening. Forthcoming topics include carotid artery and cardiac screening.
Each year, new and existing content for the website is developed, reviewed and updated by a vast team of radiologists, medical physicists and other radiology professionals serving as writers, reviewers and section stewards.
In its ongoing expansion, the committee’s goal for RadiologyInfo.org continues to be informing patients and the general public about medical imaging examinations and radiologic treatment, as well as the latest trends and developments in radiologic care.
“Our goal, which has never changed, is serving patients by helping them better understand radiologic procedures,” Dr. Fishman said. “This website is the crown jewel of our public information efforts and a testament to the hard work of hundreds of radiology professionals and support staff at the RSNA and ACR.”
To better understand how both consumers and healthcare professionals get their health information, the committee hired a market research firm to conduct two focus groups. Not surprisingly, respondents said they rely heavily on the Internet, look for websites with URL extensions such as .org and .edu, and consider a lack of advertising a sign of a website’s credibility.
The firm also conducted one-on-one usability testing sessions with healthcare consumers. During the one-hour sessions, participants were questioned about their familiarity with radiology and online information sources and then asked to use RadiologyInfo.org to learn more about specific radiologic procedures or health conditions. Participants were then invited to discuss their impressions, identifying areas of the website that were helpful as well as those they felt could use improvement.
When participants used Google to search for common keywords such as “X-ray” or “CT,” RadiologyInfo.org often came up on the first page of results—largely due to its highly effective search engine optimization strategy. When presented with a list of Google results, participants often selected RadiologyInfo.org as the best choice, and once on the site, they found it to be helpful, trustworthy and written at an appropriate level and tone.
“Part of the value of RadiologyInfo.org is to demystify radiologic procedures, to explain in simple terms what a patient can expect in a format that is straight-forward and easy to navigate,” Dr. Rubin said.
Participants’ suggestions for improving RadiologyInfo.org included better organization of the site’s content and adding more patient-friendly images and videos.
“We need to make certain that RadiologyInfo.org is giving patients what they want, the way they want it,” Dr. Fishman said. “People’s needs are so different today than they were 10 years ago. Today, Internet users expect more interactivity, a more entertaining experience.”
Radiologists need to do their part as well, according to Drs. Fishman and Rubin, who stress the importance of radiologists actively promoting RadiologyInfo.org to their patients. With downloadable fact sheets that can be used as patient handouts, RadiologyInfo.org is a turnkey communication tool for radiology practices.
“As radiologists, we have often not had the opportunity for direct patient communication,” Dr. Rubin said. “RadiologyInfo.org gives us a virtual presence and a tangible way to reach out to and engage patients when they are ready and able to receive information.”
The committee plans to use the insight gained from the market research along with interviews with key stakeholders to formulate a strategic plan for RadiologyInfo.org to be implemented in 2014 and beyond. The plan will include a new set of performance metrics to be used in future evaluations of the site.
Given the drastic changes to the Internet in just the last decade, it’s anyone’s guess what the digital world will look like in 2023. Will mobile connectivity make desktops, laptops and even tablets obsolete? Will patients participate in online support groups and regularly email their physician? Whatever the future holds, the committee is working to keep RadiologyInfo.org in step with the changes.
“RSNA members should feel comfortable that we’re working very hard to hit a moving target,” Dr. Fishman said. “At the end of the day, we need to ensure that we continue to be the preferred website for patient-directed radiology information.”
To access more than 30 articles and 18 videos on patient safety, download the RadiologyInfo.org Patient Safety in Imaging app for your iPhone, iPad and Android tablet here www.rsna.org/radinfoapp/.
Check out the RadiologyInfo.org NEW Screening and Wellness section at www.radiologyinfo.org/en/Sitemap/ScreeningMenu.cfm.
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