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Federal Health Sites Lead Pack

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By Gautham Nagesh December 4, 2009

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As technology observers we're often quick to highlight when the government lags behind the private sector. That's why it's important to take note when the public sector does something better, which seems to be the case when it comes to providing electronic health information.

According to a new survey from ForeSee Results, the federal government's health care Web sites are leading their private sector counterparts in terms of user satisfaction. From the Wall Street Journal:

On the benchmark's 100-point scale, government health care Web sites had an aggregate score of 79, while pharmaceutical Web sites came in second at 78, hospital Web sites dropped a point from last year to 73, and health insurance Web sites also fell a point year-over-year, coming in last at 64.

A score of 80 or higher is generally considered excellent on the benchmark's 100-point scale.

"Health insurance companies have the most room for improvement and also the most to gain from focusing on the customer experience, because improvements can directly and quickly impact their bottom line," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results. "Meanwhile, because of a long and focused effort on online satisfaction over nearly a decade, government-run health care Web sites are leading the pack and provide a positive example of how focusing on the customer experience has tangible results."

Disseminating health information via the Web has been an area in which the government has excelled for some time now. Web sites operated by the Health and Human Services Department and the National Institutes of Health routinely top ForeSee's customer satisfaction ranking for federal Web sites. The government's success in this sector has made it difficult going for private sector companies such as Revolution Health or WebMD, which offer similar services. Likewise, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administation have seen a very positive response to their initial attempts at using social media to spread public health information.

Agencies that regularly interact with the public should take note: For important topics like health care, the government is still the most trusted source of information.The lesson here is that federal agencies have the most success on the Web when they use it as a natural outgrowth of their existing missions. Making your Web site easy to navigate and digest will make your agency that much more likely to be the place where citizens turn when they need the facts on a particular issue. At the end of the day, you want your agency to be where people turn when they are looking for help or guidance in your field.

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