Italian hospitals on the web: A cross-sectional analysis of official websites

Giovanni Maifredi, Grazia Orizio, Maura Bressanelli, Serena Domenighini, Cinzia Gasparotti, Eleonora Perini, Luigi Caimi, Peter J. Schulz, Umberto Gelatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background. Although the use of the Internet for health purposes has increased steadily in the last decade, only a few studies have explored the information provided by the websites of health institutions and no studies on the on-line activities of Italian hospitals have been performed to date. The aim of this study was to explore the characteristics of the contents and the user-orientation of Italian hospital websites. Methods. The cross-sectional analysis considered all the Italian hospitals with a working website between December 2008 and February 2009. The websites were coded using an ad hoc Codebook, comprising eighty-nine items divided into five sections: technical characteristics, hospital information and facilities, medical services, interactive on-line services and external activities. We calculated a website evaluation score, on the basis of the items satisfied, to compare private (PrHs) and public hospitals, the latter divided into ones with their own website (PubHs-1) and ones with a section on the website of their Local Health Authority (PubHs-2). Lastly, a descriptive analysis of each item was carried out. Results. Out of the 1265 hospitals in Italy, we found that 419 of the 652 public hospitals (64.3%) and 344 of the 613 PrHs (56.1%) had a working website (p = 0.01). The mean website evaluation score was 41.9 for PubHs-1, 21.2 for PubHs-2 and 30.8 for PrHs (p < 0.001). Only 5 hospitals out of 763 (< 1%) provided specific clinical performance indicators, such as the nosocomial infection rate or the surgical mortality rates. Regarding interactive on-line services, although nearly 80% of both public and private hospitals enabled users to communicate on-line, less than 18% allowed the reservation of medical services, and only 8 websites (1%) provided a health-care forum. Conclusions. A high percentage of hospitals did not provide an official website and the majority of the websites found had several limitations. Very few hospitals provided information to increase the credibility of the hospital and user confidence in the institution. This study suggests that Italian hospital websites are more a source of information on admissions and services than a means of communication between user and hospital.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


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