Background: The Internet’s appeal as an affordable, accessible medium for information transfer makes it a potentially useful tool for practicing physicians. In the past several years, Internet-based health-care companies have proliferated, and many medical centers have established individual web sites. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate academic orthopaedic surgery departments in the United States with respect to Internet visibility and content.
Methods: We reviewed existing web sites for the 154 departments or divisions of orthopaedic surgery currently accredited for resident education by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The study sample consisted of the 113 departments that had a web page listed in the FREIDA (Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database) database. Each web site was assessed with regard to its informational value in the categories of clinical services, resident education, and physician recruitment. In addition, three commonly employed browsing engines were used to search for individual web sites and to determine their ease of accessibility.
Results: In the category of clinical services, sixty-five (57.5%) of the 113 sites provided faculty listings and forty-nine (43.4%) provided office telephone numbers and locations. Only thirteen sites provided information on common orthopaedic conditions, and five had links to other patient-education sites. In the category of resident education, twenty-four sites (21.2%) had online academic schedules, but only two provided access to complete conferences or teaching files. In the category of physician recruitment, ninety-one provided a description of their residency program and fifty-four had information on the application process, but only twenty-six web pages offered detailed departmental statistics. In terms of accessibility, fifty-three programs (46.9%) were identified by one of three popular search engines, seventeen (15%) were identified by more than one search engine, and two (1.8%) were identified by all three.
Conclusions: Academic orthopaedic surgery departments in the United States underutilize the Internet as a source of clinical and educational services. In addition, existing orthopaedic web sites are difficult to access with use of popular search engines. Thus, academic orthopaedic surgery departments in the United States are missing a valuable opportunity to promote awareness of their institutions and to become educational resources for the community.