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When More Traffic Is Good For Your Health

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There are 200 million Americans online and over half use social networking sites. Facebook has over 56 million US users; 350 million worldwide. Twitter has about 18 million US users and it was just launched in 2006.

It's mind-boggling. But even more mind-boggling is the low adoption rate of Web sites that could make a significant difference in the quality of care that people get from doctors and hospitals. Published studies repeatedly show that all providers are not created equally, and only 50 percent of care is consistent with evidence-based standards.

And, even though there are countless publicly-available Web sites that offer a "report card" of results for doctors and hospitals, less than 5 percent of US adults use data to help select their care providers. HealthGrades.com is one of the most established sites for health care quality statistics. Traffic to HealthGrades is 1/10th that of Yelp.com, a popular site with reviews of restaurants, hair stylists, mechanics, etc. Traffic to other sites, including CMS’s HospitalCompare, and the New York Times site, UCompareHealthCare, are even lower.

I was familiar with these statistics but was convinced that the underlying reason was that existing Web sites are too complex for the average American consumer. I experienced this myself when my mother-in-law needed heart valve surgery. It took me endless hours of research on the Web to scour through complication and mortality data, put it in a spreadsheet and analyze it. The effort was worthwhile; we selected a hospital that did twice as many cardiac surgery cases and had significantly better outcomes. After that experience, however, I thought, "If this process was hard for me, imagine how hard it is for someone who is not a doctor and a data geek."

A year later, I launched www.myhealthcompare.com, a free, no ad, easy to use site that simply answers the question that someone has when faced with choosing a hospital: "Where is the hospital where am I most likely to get the highest quality care?" The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: the methodology is credible, the navigation is intuitive, and users say that the comparison rankings are straightforward.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.