December 15, 2000
MEDIA CONTACT: Marjorie Centofanti
PHONE: (410) 955-8725
"Ours...was started and maintained by the grass roots efforts of physicians."
A fledgling arthritis information website at Johns Hopkins has been named one of the nation’s three top nonprofit healthcare sites by a prestigious Internet company that evaluates ‘net enterprises for industry.
The site, Hopkins-arthritis.org, competed with several hundred others across the country in the 2000eHealthcare World Awards, winning a silver medal for its content, design, navigability, user-friendliness and interactivity.
"With the Internet fast becoming a major source of health information and with hospitals struggling to create a visible presence there, being recognized as an outstanding health site means a lot to us," says Jane McKenzie-White, Hopkins-arthritis.org’s project manager.
Two years ago, an outside firm, Compuware, did the graphic design and general set-up for the site, based on specifications from Hopkins’ rheumatology faculty led by Joan Bathon, M.D., and Alan Matsumoto, M.D. "Its purpose," says McKenzie-White, "was to educate physicians and other professionals about arthritis and its various forms. Patients with arthritis are more likely to see a general practitioner than a specialist to manage their illness. We wanted a place GPs could go to easily to find the latest in research and care."
For the past two years, the Hopkins physicians and McKenzie-White fine-tuned the 500 page site, watching its popularity climb. The site now gets an average of more than a million hits a month, with 50,000 actual visitors. "To our surprise," she says, "the site is probably as popular with patients as with physicians. We haven’t yet done demographic studies, but any links that are patient-oriented see a lot of activity."
The Hopkins site is particularly notable for allowing users to interact easily with Hopkins experts. The "Ask the Expert" section gets three to five questions a day which Matsumoto or other specialists answer. "Case Rounds" presents interesting or unusual histories of actual rheumatology patients — confidentiality protected, of course — and a detailed physician commentary. Patients can share their ideas and experiences on a dedicated message board. A secure version of the board exists for physicians.
"We’ll eventually have a self-management section," says McKenzie-White, "where patients can get information to help cope with their diseases." The physicians also plan a radiology section; users would click on to generic X-rays that illustrate conditions and scroll down for a specialist’s perspective.
In making the award, eHealthcare World evaluators said the site was "clear, easy to navigate and very focused." "We feel especially pleased," says McKenzie-White, "because our site is rare, by contrast, in being started and maintained by the grass roots efforts of physicians."
To access the site, use this address: http://www.hopkins-arthritis.org